Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton — one of the kings of portrait and fashion/erotic photography:

Seduce, amuse, entertain

My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse, and entertain.

Where do your subjects actually live?

I don’t like white paper backgrounds. A woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room.

Anti-heavy equipment // in praise of simplicity

Technically, I have not changed very much. Ask my assistants. They’ll tell you, I am the easiest photographer to work with. I don’t have heavy equipment. I work out of one bag.

His equipment:

I always kept my equipment down to a minimum two cameras, each with three lenses, a flash that would clip onto the camera body, and one assistant. I did not want to spend time thinking about hardware; I wanted that time to concentrate on the girl and the world around her.

Photograph people you admire and love. Famous and infamous

I like photographing the people I love, the people I admire, the famous, and especially the infamous.

On figures and location

In the photographs themselves there’s a definite contrast between the figures and the location – I like that kind of California backyard look; clapboard houses, staircases outdoors.

Give younger photographers an opportunity

They often ask me to shoot for them. But I say no. I think an old guy like me ought not take pages away from young photographers who need the exposure.

Get around taboos of a certain society

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.

On night time lighting and flash

…growing up, I was surrounded by Nazi imagery, like everybody in Germany, and for a boy obsessed with photography it left an indelible impression on me. Later this influence was tempered by Brassai and Dr. Erich Salomon. My love of photography at night started with m early experience of [shooting in] the Berlin underground [subway] stations. Even today I love photographing by the light of street lamps or in the glare of my flash

On working outside and ‘on location’

I had found out that I did not function well in the studio, that my imagination needed the reality of the outdoors. I also realized that only as a fashion photographer could I create my kind of universe and take up my camera in the chic place and in what the locals called la zone, which were working-class districts, construction sites, and so on. To work for French Vogue at that time was wonderful: Who else would have published these nudes or the crazy and sexually charged fashion photographs which I would submit to the editor in chief?

The art of photography

The desire to discover, the desire to move, to capture the flavor, three concepts that describe the art of photography.

On making personal photos

It began when I was so ill that there was a good chance of dying. I promised myself that if I survived I would never again pander to a magazine’s requests or follow the ideas of art directors. I would only make images which were personal, which arose out of my own life.

Challenge yourself

The point of my photography has always been to challenge myself, to go a little further than my Germanic discipline and Teutonic nature would traditionally permit me to.

Overcoming your inner-handbrake

I find myself, after all these years, with a built-in safety-brake that stops me from doing certain things. And one of the reasons why I want to try so called hard pornography – I don’t even know whether it’s hard enough – is to see whether I will be able to overcome this. Because if there is one thing I hate, it’s good taste, to me it’s a dirty word.

Setting up the scene

Photography is 10% inspiration and 90% moving furniture.

The look of availability

Don’t make photos of individuals who look completely distant. It is the thought of availability which is erotic and which interests us:

There must be a certain look of availability in the women I photograph. I think the woman who gives the appearance of being available is sexually much more exciting than a woman who’s completely distant. This sense of availability I find erotic.


MASTERS

“He without a past has no future.”

Start here:

  1. How to Become a Master Photographer
  2. Why Study the Masters of Photography?
  3. Great Female Master Photographers
  4. Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
  5. 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
  6. Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography
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The Masters of Photography

Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos
Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

Classics never die:


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