Art of Helmut Newton Research Paper

Pages: 14 (4946 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 13  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Photography


Photography was as carefully elaborated as painting, and the artists took long time to determine the proper angle, pose, lighting and arrangement of the scene. The contrast between the gray shades was vital and everything had to be set especially to favor the model, make her stand out and capture the viewer's eye, without distracting their attention or stealing their interest.

All sort of props were used, from flowers, curtains, chairs and furniture, statues and other objects that would accentuate the beauty of the character. The use of reflecting materials and mirrors was also popular, to give a surreal effect. Sometimes they took inspiration from classical forms of art, such as the baroque painting, and used a very dark background, with a single light source, to create a very dramatic effect of volume and the contrast between lines and shapes.

The models often used statue poses, sometimes too static, although they intended to look relaxed and natural. The use of props accentuated an atmosphere of glamour and erotism, showing the woman surrounded by luxurious elements: furs, silks, velvet and feathers; images that accentuated the sense of touch. Those early pictures were not intended as portraits. The model is often no centered on the picture, sometimes too low, sometimes to one side, leaving space to the background composition. The over-retouching of those pictures offered an image of impossible beauty.

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Nude photography represented the same interests that nude painting, drawing and sculpture had followed though the centuries. They present the woman as a source of natural beauty, a marvelous work of nature. They present the female body in graceful soft lines, contrasting, often, with a harsh geometric background, that accentuates the curvy lines and gives more meaning to the personality the model is reflecting. A sense of innocence, natural feelings and erotic touches characterizes nude photography even from its early days.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Art of Helmut Newton and Assignment

The pursuit to portray the female body as an image of beauty, the seek for the stereotype of the living goddess, the perfect figure, stated a very specific type to be photographed and presented to the media. Those usually focused on the young woman, of healthy appearance, correctly proportioned features and limbs. The image is presented in comfortable positions, sometimes relaxed, sometimes more static. She rarely appears shy or embarrassed, but accepting her nudity as a natural state and inviting the viewer to watch her.

The realities of her true nature were overlooked. In photographs the model was never deformed or overweight, never presented scars or other imperfections. They set the image for a woman that should be, the ideal everybody was looking for.

It has been said that art has deformed the conception of beauty through the centuries always presenting fantasy characters rarely to be found in nature. This varies from period to period. We can all remember the renaissance age, when Michelangelo's nude female characters were masculinized with massive muscles and broad complexions that hardly suited the nature of the characters. Followed by the extremely slim waists that went on fashion in the modern era, when corsets imposed themselves to force a tiny waist and straight back, impossible to achieve by natural looks.

Since photography was a form of art accessible to the masses, it had the power to impose a new vision on the minds of the audience. Whatever photography portrayed was to be seen by thousands of people, and the artist had more power than ever before to share his point-of-view and influence the taste of the public.

Helmut Newton was one important character in the 20th century fashion photography. The biographic data reveal that he was born in Berlin, on October 31, 1920, within a middle class family of Jewish root. After leaving college in 1936, he became an apprentice at a studio belonging to Yva, a Jewish photographer that was to be executed many years after in a German camp.

Newton himself stated that the Nazi Jews conflicts that he witnessed from his window quite often would influence his later photographic work. However Newton's imagination was also influenced by Hitchcock's and Stroheim's films, images by Erich Salomon and Brassan, from whom he learned to handle the night scenes and atmosphere of the city.

Because of the violent persecutions happening in Germany during Hitler's period, Newton refuged in Singapore, where he made a living working for the local press. In the decade of the 40's he managed to establish in Australia, where he would open a studio in Melbourne. It was during that period that he was married to June Browne, who was also to work in photography. After a brief stay in England, the couple moved to Paris in 1957, where Newton would begin to publish his first commercial work in prestigious magazines such as Vogue, Stern, Queen and Marie Claire. Those helped him establish his name in the local territory of publicity and fashion.

In 1971 Helmut Newton suffered a heart attack that was to transform the meaning of his production. From that time his work acquired the peculiar style that characterizes it. It shows an intriguing mysterious world, based on harsh suggestive images, and propagandized, almost exclusively by the woman. The image offered is far from being soft and loving.

On the contrary, what Newton presents is a distant female, possessing ravishing strength, ignoring weakness. It is a characteristic type of woman that we find in his work, apparently responding to the wish to showcase a steady figure, presented in different variations, perhaps representing the ideal of beauty in the role of the tamer, that can the same manage animals and men.

As women achieved more power and importance in society, their beauty became a weapon more than ever before. The image of the strong controlling woman, leading the office became a standard concept of the modern female.

In the second half of the 20th century, with the expansion of feminism and women achieving more professional power, the image of the dominating female boss that used her clever seduction skills to climb the ladder of success became a modern legend, portrayed and displayed in many sides of media and art world. The use of her beauty mixed with her brain and endless courage to unwind in the dominating male world where she was seen as a beauty object became a theme for many fashion designers, authors and artists.

At this point we have to establish the difference between pornography and erotic photography. Nude photography is almost always considered erotic. The representation of the female body in its natural state, even in the most modest and naive of poses, will always content some sense of erotism in it, for the very fact that nudity is still, even today, a taboo subject, and widely associated with sex. The paradox between modest poses and the nude nature of the model perhaps accentuates the sexual meaning of the picture, as it is associated with innocence and, perhaps, virginity.

However those photos are not openly erotic, as they do not always portray the female body in inviting or suggestive positions. Often the model seems to be completely unaware of the presence of the spectator, or the photographer, absorbed in her own activities, her attention distracted. She may be engaged in different events as well, most of them contradicting her nudity with the reality of everyday life. We know a woman will not sit nude at the table to drink her morning coffee, for instance. And yet, there is a sense of logic in this claim of intimacy, the freedom of having her way, in the loneliness of her own home, where she is the mistress and there are no impositions or conventions to stop her from feeling comfortable and at ease.

To say that nude pictures belong to pornography, then those should clearly represent the act, intention or desire for the sexual activity. Even if sometimes a photograph can be interpreted as sensual, reading subdued details that may bring such to the mind (she caresses a cigarette, holding it close to her slightly parted lips, smiling in an ecstasy of pleasure), such discreet associations depend more on the mind of the viewer than the actual composition of the image.

Nude images are intended more to arise esthetic feelings than sexual desire. Many argue these statements, claiming that the main goal for both is one and the same, as it is impossible for a man to see a nude woman without having sexual ideas. Artists claim that, in that case, men will have those thoughts no matter how the model is presented, nude or covered, with the difference that the woman can be either seen or imagined. In the end the line between nude art and pornographic work is limited by personal opinions and points-of-view. Mostly it is society itself the one that will state how far art is allowed to go to be still considered art, and how close we draw the line to perversion. Those different opinions vary to state where esthetic and erotic… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Art of Helmut Newton" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Art of Helmut Newton.  (2007, February 12).  Retrieved July 28, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Art of Helmut Newton."  12 February 2007.  Web.  28 July 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Art of Helmut Newton."  February 12, 2007.  Accessed July 28, 2021.