Helmut Newton

I’ve been doing a lot of talking about my photography lately. I mean out loud. Lots of verbal conversations and computer chatting. I’m clearly working through a lot of ideas and putting myself in a position photographically where I’m not always sure of my footing as I click the shutter. I was talking to my muse the other night about it, saying that I feel a little like I did ten or fifteen years ago when I was trying to figure out what kind of photographer I wanted to be. I was experimenting a lot. Buying a lot of photography books.

But I think the most important difference between now and then is that I finally have a model to collaborate with who is as committed to shooting as much as possible as I am. We’ve started to really go over the more than one thousand photographs we’ve made in the last few weeks, seeing what has been working and what we want to go back and try again. It’s really been an amazing process. I find myself very energized just thinking about it.

I had a few minutes this afternoon where I had the chance to look up a few books I’ve had on my list. When Helmut Newton died this year, I realized that two of my favorite photographers were gone in the last two years. Herb Ritts being the other. Both of them have been major influences on my work over the years. And even though my library has a large number of Herb Ritts books, I only have one on Helmut Newton.

So today I fixed that. Some were out of print and I ended up getting them from various booksellers all over the country. But in a few days, I’ll be knee deep in the work of Mr. Newton. I’m looking forward to spending time studying his work up close. But it’s not just his images that are intriguing to me, but his attitude about fashion and art and how he combined the two.

One of the books I will be getting contains some of his controversial work with Paris Vogue back in the 60s. Newton moved to Paris in 1957 and spent more than two decades shooting for the various editions of Vogue as well as the other major fashion magazines. Of course, his most interesting images were limited to the European magazines with their more healthy and open minded views of art. America was then and continues to be so repressed that Newton’s images were dismissed as too shocking for public consumption, at least on their coffee tables.

Maybe that’s why I felt so at home in Paris last month.

So as my muse and I continue on our photographic adventure, I’m looking forward to trying all the things we have on our list and things we haven’t even thought up yet. We had her balancing on a thin piece of wall, eight feet up in the air during the last shoot in the middle of the night. We managed to make some interesting images even though we were a little skittish about her falling to the hard floor below if she lost her balance.

I think that’s really what this has become for me. For us both. Being fearless. Trying things that may sound silly to say them out loud, but you can’t argue with the results.

J’aime ma belle muse!

So again, we’re not ready to reveal what we’re working on just yet, but so that this is not a text only entry, here’s a photograph I took of Basia in Montreal in 1996. We were shooting a commercial for Tresemme shampoo and Montreal was a stand-in for Paris. Basia, who still shows up in Victoria’s Secret once in a while even though the new crop of supermodels has taken over, was extremely pleasant and generous during the shoot. And Montreal is a city I hope to visit again sometime soon.

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