An exhibition dedicated to Helmut Newton’s work with brands may sound dull in comparison to his more racy art photography, with those prominent cheek-boned nudes, unabashedly revealing all in their deadpan insouciance. But nudity is everywhere and almost all of it features white women (people of colour do appear, but rarely).
At times, the brand is evident but on numerous occasions there’s simply a standalone shot. Taken out of context, these appear arresting but oddly vacuous. In a scene reminiscent of Mad Max, naked women work the soil and stand up tall on farm machinery. Opposite, more nude women lug Villeroy & Boch toilets up the gravel path of a stately home.
Sex sells, as the saying goes, and bringing full frontal nudity to the commercial sector was clearly a winning formula
Further on it gets even more playful, and you can see the photographer’s cinematic bent in lavish shots of a seductive Jerry Hall lying on a sofa beside bottles of Opium perfume. Sex sells, as the saying goes, and bringing full frontal nudity to the commercial sector was clearly a winning formula for the German-Australian photographer.
There’s a chance to see more run-of-the-mill fashion photography with his long-term collaborations with Anna Molinari and Blumarine. The banality of the images is elevated by the beauty of the models, including a striking image of a young Monica Bellucci.
The Museum of Photography is also showing Private Property, an exhibition dedicated to Newton’s personal life. Alongside landmark photos (Newton meeting the Queen, for example), there’s a section devoted to famous outfits, including his garish yellow socks. Newton’s Monaco office has been recreated in its entirety. Faded and dated, it recalls a bygone era of jaunty hues and pastel shades, providing a muted counterpoint to his own particular brand of machismo.
- Museum of Photography, Jebensstr. 2, Charlottenburg, details. Until 14.05.23.