Photographer Helmut Newton is internationally renowned for his images of smart, businesslike — and usually semi—naked — women. He speaks to Ann Donald before a visit to Glasgow.
l atn being berated by a very feisty 75- year-old man with a heavy German accent who has taken great exception to the mild suggestion that some of his work could be perceived as sexy. or erotic.
‘What‘.’ Are you asking me if I get a hard-on when 1 take these photographs‘." blusters Helmut Newton. Ehh no. Helmut. I thought that as a photographer whose work has embodied a certain opulence. decadence. fantasy. fetishism. aggression and a dizzying number of naked females in your ground-breaking fashion photography. this angle on sex and eroticism didn‘t seem to be such an outrageous jumping-off point for the interview. especially given earlier quotes regarding the subject. Talking to journalist Carol Squires in the introduction to his book Portraits he enthused: ‘I am a voyeur! i think every photographer, whether he does pictures that are erotic or sexy or something else. is a voyeur. Your life goes by looking through a little hole.‘
Helmut Newton is letting off steam as he prepares to address Glasgow School of Art students. part ofthe Blackburn Lecture Series. He is one of the leading lights in fashion photography alongside other snapper gods like Irving Penn. Richard Avedon and Bob Richardson. All are credited with transforming the glossy pages of style bibles like Elle . Playboy . Nora and in particular Vogue
with their distinctive print in the past 30 years. The backdrops for many of Newton‘s 60s and 70s photographs are the milieu ofthe privileged: the sumptuous hotels and villas belonging to the international jet-set. Against this. he set tip his controversial scenarios combining explicit sexuality with ambiguous psychology. all often in the name of fashion. After creating a furore in British Vogue in [966 with the ‘implicit lesbianism‘ ofa fashion shoot involving models Jean Shrimpton and Celia Hammond. he went on to embrace the whole androgyny angle with a series of portraits using the masculine Saint Laurent mid-70s suits. Nowadays the esteemed photographer limits himself to working for Vogue and shooting the occasional portrait. though
‘Most male photographers who concentrate on male nudes have been homosexual and that goes right back to the 19th century. There's an obvious sexual preference - and good luck to them!’
he is currently in Hamilton‘s Gallery. London hanging his latest exhibition Nude Works l992—l994.
After our initial contre-temps. Newton calms down and we move onto the less stormy subject ofthe female form and how it has changed over the decades. ‘Physically. they‘re getting bigger.’ notes the man who observes them through a little hole. ‘When i went to Paris in the 50s. the models were tiny little wisps ofgirls and all the big girls were the Swedes and Americans. i think that with changes in diet and sport the French girls are very tall now.‘
As for the celebrated Moss waif look. Newton doesn‘t have much time the skinnymalinkys of the model world. ‘What i like is when they‘re built like truck drivers.‘ he laughs. ‘That whole waifthing doesn‘t interest tne. l photographed Twiggy in the 60s because that was a phenomenon in those days but I‘m much tnore interested in the great big hulks.‘
| Some of his favourite contemporary
‘big hulks‘ include Cindy Crawford — a ‘wonderfully and fantastically intelligent and talented model who is wonderful to work with'. and uberbabe Nadja Auermann. ‘l like her very much and helped her out when she was just a beginner.‘ says Newton.
Just before he flies out ofClaridges Hotel and Britain. l pop one final question: why has the male form never been subjected to his lens? ‘l‘m really not very interested in men that way you know.‘ he states baldly. ‘Most male photographers who concentrate on male
The bare facts: shooting time with Helmet mm
nudes have been homosexual and that goes right back to the l9th century. you know. There's an obvious sexual preference — and good luck to them . . . and good luck to me too.’
And on that diplomatic note. happy Helrnut signs off. Helmut Newton is to give an illustrated talk in the Blackburn Lecture Series. at I 0.30am on 20 Nov in the Glasgow Film Theatre. A limited number of seats will be available for the public. Newton is exhibiting at the Hamilton 's Gallery. London until 18 Nov.
Andrea Fisher’s photography explores memory, using repetition of images and sequences of moments as a method of exploring ourselves.
In Becounfing, an exhibition of her work at Edinburgh’s Portfolio Gallery, the installations have an eerie quality, their surreal nature pulling you in, fascinating but often unfathomable. ‘It is as if they had always already been gone’ shows a woman lying dead, her hand still clutching her purse and stretching out towards her discarded
drea Fisher: fascinating but uniathomable
hairband. Next to it stands a vitrine —
a transparent box on high legs - which holds a hairband.
Elsewhere, a pure white table holds a pile of photographs, with prints of hands and digitized data, in no particular order. The mounted photographs beside this are again of hands, the dead woman, and of a half- buried body, the covering cloth pulled back to expose the face - an image of violent death, distorting and puzzling.
Images of hands and of folds in white sheets accompanied by digitized dates and times, seem at first glance to build up patterns - contexts of time and place. In fact, the digital data has no apparent order to it and no connections to the forms around it. These are displaced images, half remembered, dark memories, trying to link themselves together.
This is how most people remember, with some images and thoughts easin recalled and others irritatineg and sometimes disturbing elusive. The artist is attempting to show us the deception of memory and its fallibility.
But this is not an easy show to visit. The images are demanding, and the viewer is likely to spend too much time reading the catalogue, trying to understand Fisher’s theories. If it is a rewarding experience, it is an exclusive one, aimed at too specific an audience. Fisher is trying too hard, perhaps because she knows memory is more than just black and white images, and that most of us need more than silent installations to understand what’s happening here. (Sally Kerr) Recounfing by Andrea Fisher Is at Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh unfil Sat 11 Ilov.
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