Helmut Newton - Newton's Big Nudes - Barbican
Helmut Newton was born in Berlin in
1920 as a son of a German button manufacturer
and a rich American woman. He left
Germany in 1938 because he was Jewish.
He headed for China and ended up staying
in Singapore for two years. He settled
in Melbourne, Australia, where he
worked as a driver in the army. Later
he was left the army, he bought his
first classy car and set up a photography
studio in Sydney. One day he photographed
a young actress who was playing the
lead in Hedda Gabler in Melbourne.
She was June Browne, also a photographer
under the name of Alice Spring. They
were married in 1947, but they didn't
have children. In Melbourne he worked
as a wedding photographer. He had
chronic cardiovascular problems and
she has had major heart surgery, but
he says of her, "She is still
a very amusing, interesting person.
"She is 77 and he is 80 but they
both look much younger. He had a heart
attack in 1971, due to smoking three
packs a day and being a workaholic.
There is a famous portrait of June
naked after her heart surgery in 1982,
zipped up from pudendum to navel;
he was interested in the scars. I
saw the documentary TV film Helmut
by June, which she made about her
husband. They really seem to have
a wonderful relationship. The documentary
ends with him sending her a kiss to
the camera; you could feel the complicity
between them. She said that she only
worried about him when he started
to photograph flowers for their income.
It is ambiguous view of his livelihood.
She shows his working life obsessed
by erotic photography and his meanness
seems to be a running joke. He showed
to the camera his old cashmere cardigan
and his underpants full of holes.
June calls him Helmie. You can see
the photo shot with Pavarotti; him
shooting Pavarotti; Pavarotti shooting
Helmut and then both of them together.
Another shot was of Gianni Versace
sprawled naked on a leopard skin throw
(of his own choice); also a shot of
Michael Caine and his wife Shakira.
I went to the Barbican to see his
exhibition that was previously shown
last autumn in Berlin, at the National
Gallery of Berlin. Newton says he
was influenced by Brassai, Erich Solomon
(the German photographer), and the
seductive black-and-white nudes of
Man Ray and Edward Weston. In June
1999 he launched "The book",
the biggest in the world - 28ins by
20ins, 480 pages and weighing 4 stones;
too weighty for a bedside or coffee
table. It comes with its own sleek
steel stand, designed by Philippe
Starck, on which to display it. It
needed two men to lift the dummy edition
onto the stage in Basle. The price
was $1,500, with the Starck table
included and limited to 10,000 copies.
The art publisher was Benedikt Taschen
(Helmut Newton calls him "Our
Father"). Taschen hopes it will
become a collector's item not just
among photo-fetishists; hence its
launch at Basle Art Fair.
Us and Them became a book and an exhibition.
Newton said to his wife June, "I
should not have done it. It's too
demystifying. But then I said: 'well
it's too late to pull back, and, anyway,
at my age, what the hell?'"He
goes on to say, "It's a very
personal book, and... well, people
have never associated me with that
sort of photography. "
Helmut Newton is considered to be
one of the world's greatest pornographers,
the King of Kings, the photographic
industry's crown prince of perversion.
In fact the exhibition at the Barbican
- Newton's Big Nudes - was to celebrate
his 80th birthday is very impressive;
life-size photos of human nudes and,
of course, the models were wearing
high heels. He likes what the high
heel does for the muscles. His wife
has photographed him clad in his favourite
pair of heels with a pair of high-cut
shorts; looking at his photos in high
heels. I find his legs very sexy and
slim. Georgette, his favourite plastic
mannequin, is also in many of his
photos, but his favourites are Barbie
Dolls. His latest fetish is the black
Barbie (without clothes) and her wheelchair
bound friend. Newton said, "a
nude is not pornographic, unless it
shows a woman or man masturbating
- that's pornographic".
He has portraits of politicians. "I
had wanted for years to get Mrs Thatcher
in front of my camera; as she got
more powerful she got sort of sexier.
"When Margaret Thatcher sat for
him he said, "She was fantastic,
I was very timid, she was totally
in control". Her picture hangs
in the NPG. In the portrait she looked
mad, Le Pen diabolically with two
black Dobermans. He once said, "I
don't believe in good taste. It's
very boring". But the woman he
said, "(he) would love to photograph"
is Camilla Parker Bowles. "She
has huge power over one person in
the face of great opposition".
He continues, "I've sent out
feelers, but alas, no bites".
Camilla has not answered?I say "Darling,
he is a genius, hurry up!!"
June has taken many photos of Helmut
naked but on his own terms. He was
horrified when he posed for Annie
Leibovitiz and she asked him to unzip
his trousers and pluck out his penis.
What fascinates me most is that he
is fabulously kinky in his images;
it makes me wonder what is on his
mind while he is taking photos of
beautiful naked women. And again,
I wonder what is going through his
head when he lets his wife take photos
of him in high heels.
In his Paris exhibition in 1994 -
Les Derniere Nudes - he was going
to concentrate exclusively on landscape
photography, but he came back in 1995
for the haute couture in glossy magazines.
Some names being thrown around were
porno chick, domination game, pervert,
deviant, and peeping tom; in fact,
in his pictures have been vandalised
by protesters and Newton has been
physically assaulted. The real porno
photos - penetration, erect penises
- are housed at a Museum in Turin.
When I saw his photos for the Wolford
stocking advertisement for Fenwicks
I was completely taken. Which brings
me to my future husband - the man
with the sexiest bushy eyebrows that
I have ever seen. I know I haven't
spoken about him for a long time but
I did read in The Times that there
is a sexual attraction with men who
have bushy eyebrows because they have
more testosterone. In fact, the first
and only time I stroked his eyebrows
my heart went bum, bum, bum. He doesn't
like to have brows shaped professionally
so I could do the pervert bit and
shape them myself, one by one, while
he goes on screaming with happiness.
But it could be that his eyebrows
are his real power like Samson, the
Bible strongman who lost his power
when his hair was unexpectedly cut
off. So, the secret of my future husband's
strength lies in his "au natural"
eyebrows untouched by any barber or
human hands. I am really fascinated
by his eyebrows but, like Margaret
Thatcher, I want to be the one "in
full control". I feel I am a
sort of frustrated dominatrix. The
most famous hairdresser - for men
- Mr James of the Ritz says regarding
hairy noses, "Put the scissors
up the nostrils and snip, snip, snip.
Bushy eyebrows: I shave them or trim
the ends. "This make me very
happy because when I have my wax I
suffer terrible pain and it's so good
to know that men do too.
Helmut Newton photos of a woman in
black leather trousers is perfect
for women of my age. If you want to
go in for domination it is great if
you are dressed completely in black,
no worry about the gravity and cellulite,
just get out the riding-crop and,
as the psychiatrist says, beat the
gay and take out your anger. After
this experience you will feel great,
leather trousers make everybody sexy.
In England, in the telephone boxes,
you can get in touch with any kind
of sex, but most advertisements are
about domination, such as the advert
which says, "Madam is waiting".
"Madam's" photo is plastered
of the ad with her face covered by
a cat's mask, dressed in black and
red with black high-heeled boots to
walk on top of whatever she desires.
She holds the riding-crop and the
handcuffs and says "Domination...
Let your fantasies run wild at the
House of Corrections, Report now!"Another
advert is for Domination House: Pain,
Pleasure and Bondage, Rubber, Humiliation,
Spanking, Tie and Tease, Maid Training.
I heard a gay man on the bus say that
he liked to be tied up because it
reminded him of his mother tying him
up when he was a little boy. So reading
about the "Mature Mistress"
it is good to know that a mature,
divorced woman like myself still has
a chance. Yes, it is no doubt that
fetishism objects can give you a kink...
I love shoes, I love high heels. When
I walk around the streets of London
I look down at the people's feet and
I see women in fabulous shoes; and
when I look at their face I can tell
that their feet are killing them!But
they wear the shoes because they want
to be sexy. In fact, when I feel down
I buy a pair of shoes. I must have
the Imelda Marcos illness - a shoe
maniac - with some it is an addiction.
And now I am into the fetishism of
eyebrows. But unfortunately, my future
husband doesn't have the Italian moccasin
taste. I suppose I will have to take
him to Italy for some shopping and
give him a little taste of the Italian