To know more about the documentary, Helmut Newton: The Bad and The Beautiful
shows Helmut’s provocative work while pondering whether his imagery was misogynist or empowering. Freedom of expression or sexism? Well, other renowned muses of the photographer like Grace Jones, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithful and Claudia Schiffer also star in the documentary, and they all agree that his character was that of an innocent, charming and playful naughty boy who took away all the edge and made people more comfortable and relaxed.
Nobody who’s worked with him has ever complained about the experience or expressed feeling humiliated. He wanted his models acting rather than modelling, seeing them as a vehicle of expression. In fact, many people considered Newton’s approach to photography necessary at the time. Of course, it’s up to you whether you like his work or not, but this documentary makes a statement about freedom of expression.
The German photographer always found fascination in the combination of opposite elements. For instance, photographing a $1,000,000 bracelet next to a roast chicken with its legs wide open. Whether people understood his artistic approach – his images spoke about the culture at large tossing irony and humour into the established world of fashion magazines and commercial work at the time –, Helmut Newton made his voice heard in mainstream culture.
To understand it, it’s important to put his art into context. For example, one of his more popular works for Vogue magazine was Sie kommen
, naked for Vogue Paris (1981), a two-page spread featuring four women wearing all that expensive luxury clothes and jewellery on the left side, and on the right side, you see these same women, in the same position, but naked, thus becoming even stronger. As said in the interview, everyone who knew Helmut Newton agrees on the fact that his ultimate goal was to portray the beauty and power of women.
“What is the soul? I have no interest at all in the people I photograph, the girls, their private life or their character. I am interested in the outside and what my camera sees. I am interested in photographing faces, breasts, legs. You see that in my photos, and hopefully, something more. But soul? I don’t get that,” Newton explains in the documentary. Every person who worked with him has a smile on their face when talking about him; they see him as an innocent and playful man.
No one explains it better than Marianne Faithful: “I don’t think anyone else could’ve made me to do that. Helmut made me show my tits without feeling any embarrassment or shame. I was brought up by nuns in a catholic convent, and it took me years to decompress and get over it.”
Gero von Boehm has counted with the priceless help and contribution from the Helmut Newton Foundation
in Berlin along the Germany Public Television ZDF.