Helmut Newton. The Story Behind The White Paper Background

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”It’s that 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.” Helmut Newton

I think I was almost five years old when I first remember getting stuck in front of this painting hanging on my grandparents wall. Even if it had only some basic lines and the shapes of some human silhouettes, I had this whole story built in my mind around the colors of the drawing. Then it was this beautiful girl across the street, a painter’s sketch on the beach, a photo of the sea, the old postcard with the purple sunset, or the drawing of the back yard of a home I never lived in. I always loved the things or the people that made me stop, having that amazing ability of projecting a feeling that gets stuck over time and that you carry with you throughout the years.

Some years ago when I came across Helmut Newton’s photography I was blown by the capacity of his photos to generate that story behind the capture in the viewer’s mind. Born in Germany, Helmut Newton was a fashion photographer whose provocative, erotically charged black and white photos were often seen in Vogue and other fashion publications. After spending his early years in Melbourne Australia, Newton’s growing reputation as a fashion photographer helped him get a 12 month contract with the British Vogue and left for London in February 1957.  Newton left the magazine before the end of his contract and went to Paris, where he worked for French and German magazines. He returned to Melbourne in March 1959 to a contract for Australian Vogue. In 1961, Newton moves to Paris and continues his work for fashion magazines as Vogue , Harper’s Bazaar and even Playboy. His style was marked by erotic scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts. In his later life, Newton lived in both Monte Carlo and Los Angeles, California and he died in a car accident at the age of 83.

The photographer that only concentrated ”on the girl and the world around her”, as he alone used to say, managed to attached an image to the story behind it, and as he strongly believed, the ”desire to discover, the desire to move, to capture the flavor, are the three concepts that describe the art of photography”.

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Photos by Helmut Newton

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