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HELMUT NEWTON : 1920-2004

Considered an icon in fashion photography, The retrospective exhibition on the creative output of Berlin born photographer Helmut Newton was on display at The Museum Of Fine Arts in Budapest. His work has a distinctive feel and his influence is felt in any modern magazine of our time. The variant themes of fame, luxury, sexuality, and eroticism are photographed in hotel rooms, desert flats, five-star hotels, and the mansions and yachts of the celebrity elite. The exhibition is organized and divided into three sections selected from a long career spanning more then sixty years. Work inspired from Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung is arranged almost like articles in a newspaper. The photographs are stacked one on top the other using all available space. Like reading a newspaper, your eyes are drawn to the photographs and then flow from one to another then back again.

Private Property 1972-1983 offers intimate viewing of Helmut Newton’s most well-known and important portfolio. The presentation of the exhibition is well organized, the small, artist signed, plainly framed photographs, are spaced evenly across the walls allowing you to travel around the world and dive into the thoughtful environments composed by Helmut Newton himself. From the roofs of a New York skyscraper, to a backyard with Raquel Welch, we travel to the destinations of the wealthy and successful. Fine manicured gardens, courtyards, and the streets of Paris, Monaco, and Beverly Hills scream opulence and prestige.

The sensual portrayals of Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Taylor, Elsa Peretti, Nastassja Kinski, Veruschka, (actress from the cult-classic Blow up), and Princess Caroline of Monaco glimpse at the wealth and life of the famous in their domain but add a candid human element as well. Many of his portraits expose a certain hidden more intimate aspect of the persona while his other work with nudes have a more conceptual feel and deal with ideas of gender, sexuality, erotic fantasy, and physical beauty viewed through Newton’s own vision. Many of the prints produced were thought out to obtain maximum shock value in the eyes of the conservative public, (what today would be considered mainstream); he faced a lot of obstacles in the publications and distribution during his career and overcame them, which heralded him as a pioneer in fashion photography.

A woman handcuffed on the floor, Steam Radiator, Mrs. Cohen’s X-Rays, Tied up Torso and a woman on a bed in a horse saddle, Saddle 1, are shaped by our own thoughts and can be viewed from dark oppression against women, or the complete opposite, expression of sexually liberated individuals. Bondage, constraints, and the role of gender and its reversal are illustrated in Rich Girl, Woman Into Man, Woman With Snake, and Woman Examining Man. Specifically in the massive color prints of the A Gun for Hire section, Helmut’s work is highlighted with androgynous models and expressionless faces dressed in glamorous fine textiles and unaffordable jewelry while still looking bored and disconnected. His fame and ability to produce large contrasts in relationship of the models and their surroundings are the reasons that the corporate brands of Vogue, Blumarine, Yves Saint Laurent, and Absolute Vodka contracted him for these advertising commissions.

Helmut Newton died in a car crash in 2004, but his legacy will continue to inspire, anger and intrigue for decades to come.