Helmut Newton French Vogue 1975
Helmut Newton's photography is remembered for pushing nude photography to its limits.
He established a style that bordered on erotic, stylised scenes which could be interpreted to be sado-masochistic and fetishistic.
In this photograph the two females appear to be together, to be in a relationship and then again because of the female in her nudity against the clothed female suggests a different meaning. Is she a stranger, is she trying to seduce her? Why is the female dressed as a man?
The female wearing only a hat and stilettos examines the suited figure. She is dressed in a striking designer suit which suggests that she is part of the social elite.
The nude is positioned behind the other figure. She has her leg stretched out before her. Is this a barrier she is not permitted to cross?
Newton gives the viewer part access to the female body, with certain parts not visible. She touches her arm in a fond, loving way. This move rejected by a lack of response. The setting is one of affluence, probably near to a sumptuous hotel in an area of luxury and privilege. The suited figure appears to be wealthy and famous, quite arrogant in gesture.
I think the image is inviting questions. There is a surreal feel to the mood and there is a confusion of thought in trying to make sense of the message behind the image. Why has Newton portrayed the female in immaculate make-up, wearing serious stilettos, mostly naked and seen on the arm of a socialite. Is it that the artist is trying to create a unique imaginative world for us to lose ourselves in for a few moments, or is it that the artist wants us to decide whether
or not we believe that art is a dirty word and we respond with erotic thoughts.
Perhaps the artist wants us to see the pose as a form of fashion advertising, allowing the viewer to interact and idealise the self. Women dressed as men in fashion terms is considered modern and unthreatening. Or perhaps the artist wants us to consider transgender problems in society. Whatever the thinking, this is a strong, stunning image by Newton.