Newton On Display in L.A.
“I’m not looking for a nice girl,” Helmut Newton once said. In lieu of the angular subjects that were the fashion convention in the forties when Newton began his career, the photographer sought out busty, broad-shouldered women—often blondes—whom he’d photograph in black and white, at high noon, and preferably in the nude. He rendered his muses as strong, dominant protagonists in his erotic, visual narratives, which flirted with sadomasochism. More than 100 of his subversive images are now on display at Los Angeles’ Annenberg Space for Photography. Opening to the public on Saturday, Helmut Newton: White Women • Sleepless Nights • Big Nudes comprises works from his first three books. One photograph from the seventies, “Chained Nude,” shows a model wearing only a pair of cherry-red stilettos and chains around her ankles, while another, particularly iconic shot, depicts two women—one nude, one in a black tuxedo—sharing a passionate kiss.
Having spent his winters in Los Angeles, the Berlin-born Newton frequently photographed its actresses and models at notable local destinations. For instance, he snapped Daryl Hannah swinging on rings at Santa Monica Beach, and shot models Lisa Taylor and Beverly Johnson topless on the Sunset Strip. Another of Newton’s favorite locations was the Chateau Marmont—in fact, in 2004 at age 83, the photographer died in a car accident after leaving the West Hollywood hotel.
To coincide with the exhibition, the gallery commissioned Provocateur, a short film that features images of Newton (like the snap David Fahey took of the photographer in 1985 at the Chateau Marmont, left), and interviews with those who knew him well. Among them was George Holz, who, along with Mark Arbeit and Just Loomis, worked as Newton’s assistant before becoming a professional photographer himself. “I’ll always remember the way he approached his assignments and would look around more for the unexpected than the expected. He pushed for his vision,” Holz told Style.com at a preview on Wednesday. “The first big shoot that Mark and I worked with him on was in Manhattan Beach with a bunch of surfers. Afterward, we’d always go back and hang at the Polo Lounge [at the Beverly Hills Hotel] and talk about the day, photography, and life,” Holz recalled. “He was very generous that way.”
Helmut Newton: White Women • Sleepless Nights • Big Nudes opens Saturday and is on view through September 8 at the Annenberg Space for Photography, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles.