Helmut Newton - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zurich
    Hamiltons Gallery, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    "What I find interesting is working in a society with certain taboos and fashion photography is about that kind of society. To have taboos, then to get around them that is interesting.” Helmut Newton

    Beginning in the 1970s, Helmut Newton’s distinctive, provocative, and daring photographs of women marked a seismic shift in the representation of the female form in twentieth-century fashion photography. Born from an era that saw the birth of feminism and the sexual revolution, his work pushed forward the image of the modern woman: powerful, independent and free from all social conventions and restrictions. Even clothes. Indeed, Newton’s most celebrated –and perhaps most controversial – photographs remain his monumental nudes.

    As detailed in Helmut Newton: Work, Newton’s Big Nudes were inspired by the life-size portraits of terrorists—including the Baader-Meinhof gang—that hung in the offices of the German special police squad tasked with their capture. For images that appear more ‘centerfold’ than ‘criminal’, it’s a curious connection but one that highlights Newton’s interest in subverting gender stereotypes; here casting the female nude in the prototypical male role of the suspect. We should come to expect no less from Newton. His photographs are always infused with a deeper sub context; layered with an alternate reality or fantasy that he invites viewers to play out in their subconscious.

    With their sterilized and simplified backgrounds, Big Nudes stand in contrast to the more elaborate vignettes of Newton’s other work. As he himself commented, “It’s without any artifice. It’s just a woman standing there; she wears high heeled shoes, nothing else. It’s almost like a passport photograph, but in the nude.” That is not to say, however, that the images are without depth. By reducing the scene to just the model, here Nancy La Scala against a white background, Newton surrenders a great deal of control of the final photograph over to his subject, allowing her to become an active participant in the image-making process. This becomes most apparent in her unabashedly assertive stance, which, in review of the entire series, is the defining characteristic that distinguishes each photograph from the next. In this case, while fully exposed to the viewer, La Scala stares down at the camera’s lens with her arms folded across her chest, at once inviting viewers to look and then confronting them for doing so. The shadows behind her provide a greater presence and depth to her already monumental form and, at over six feet tall, the scale of the photograph further reinforces the confrontational nature of the image itself. Fully confident and in control, she is unapologetic for all that she presents before the camera.

    Newton’s Big Nudes succinctly embody themes of sexuality, voyeurism and power that run throughout his entire oeuvre and his revolutionary vision transformed the parameters of fine art and fashion photography for all those that followed.

  • Artist Biography

    Helmut Newton

    German • 1920 - 2004

    Helmut Newton's distinct style of eroticism and highly produced images was deemed rebellious and revolutionary in its time, as he turned the expected notion of beauty, depicted by passive and submissive women, on its head. Depicting his models as strong and powerful women, Newton reversed gender stereotypes and examined society's understanding of female desire.

    Newton created a working space for his models that was part decadent and part unorthodox — a safe microcosm in which fantasies became reality. And perhaps most famously of all, Newton engendered an environment in which his female models claimed the space around them with unapologetic poise and commanding sensuality. His almost cinematic compositions provided a hyper-real backdrop for the provocative images of sculptural, larger-than-life women, and enhanced the themes of voyeurism and fetishism that run throughout his work.

    View More Works


Big Nude VII, Nancy La Scala, Monte-Carlo

Gelatin silver print.
78 1/4 x 46 5/8 in. (198.8 x 118.4 cm)
Signed, titled, dated, numbered 2/3 and annotated 'Certificate of Authenticity' in ink on an artist's label affixed to the reverse of the flush-mount.

$200,000 - 300,000 

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New York 3 October 2017