“I hate dishonesty in pictures: the disgusting image shot in the name of an artistic principle. Blurry images. Grainy images. Bad technique.” – Helmut Newton
Born in 1920 and raised in Berlin, Germany, photographer Helmut Newton left the world in a distinctly different place to the one he found. A prolific artist with the ability to look through the lens of a camera unlike anyone that had come before him, Newton forged a new path, one entirely of his own making. “The desire to discover, the desire to move, to capture the flavour, three concepts that describe the art of photography,” he once said in a quote that typifies his approach to art.
Undoubtedly one of the most influential photographers of all time, Newton first achieved international acclaim during the 1970s while working principally for the French publication Vogue. Finding his ability to blend nudity, high fashion and wonderfully cinematic visuals, it was here where he became celebrated for his controversial scenarios. Newton separated himself from any of his contemporaries during this period, pushing the boundaries of normal societal constraints to create a series of images that were effortlessly fresh and dynamic.
Of his approach, Newton once said: “Voyeurism in photography is a necessary and professional sickness. Look at, capture, observe, frame, target,” Newton once said. “These are the laws of our field. The world is totally different when I look at it through the viewfinder. I always take a step back from what I see through my camera. I use it as a screen”.
The photographer added: “The point of my photography has always been to challenge myself. To go a little further than my Germanic discipline and Teutonic nature would permit me to”.
While Newton is now fondly remembered as the artist that marked out themes of erotic, stylished and borderline sadomasochistic tendencies, life in photography was born out of pain, out of a desire to overcome personal issues that dominated his life. “Taking photographs became the way I coped with things,” he once said. “My wife had a serious operation that upset me: I started photographing her. When I had something wrong with me, I used a camera. It helped. I photographed my doctors, and myself in the hospital mirror. I have a theory that in war, or any trauma if a photographer has a camera between him and the horror, he can face it. If there’s something that upsets me, I get my camera out.”
And out of great pain, out of tremendous horror, came pure art. Newton succumbed to his personal turmoil by allowing his creative impulse to bleed into the camera. While iconic works such as Sie Kommen (Naked and Dressed), Upstairs at Maxim’s, Pool at Suburban House and countless others are remembered fondly, today we turn to a different side of Newton.
French curator Françoise Marquet, who established a photographic department at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1981, joined forces with editor Manfred Heiting to create ‘Work’, a new book that explores another element of Newton’s creations. Released through Taschen, the book “showcases Newton’s suggestive storytelling throughout his fashion, editorial, or personal pictures”.
Have a glimpse inside the publication, below.