There’s a few excellent photographic exhibitions on here at the moment. I’ve seen three of them but I’ll try and write them up when I have time. The most recent was the Helmut Newton exhibition at the Grand Palais.
Newton’s the iconographic and, at times, iconoclastic photographer most famed perhaps for his striking nudes and fashion shots for Vogue. His style is most definitely one which is fetishistic, erotic and with heavy tones of sado-masochism thrown in for good measure. As Newton himself claimed, perhaps as a joke, perhaps not “I always have some chains and handcuffs in the boot of my car, not for myself but for my photos”.
I approached the exhibition with a degree of unease over Newton’s possible misogyny but the overwhelming feeling is one in which the women who are the subjects of the photographs are strong and in control. The sheer size of the photographs is stunning and, in some cases, the gauche approach to the staging is equally stunning. Newton himself liked the element of “bad taste”, perhaps the shock to accepted artistic mores was just as interesting and entertaining to him as the shocks delivered to the accepted sexual mores or photographic styles of the 70s and 80s. There is also a lot of wit about these pictures and a degree of self-deprecation.
It is easy to see his influence. A walk around this relatively small exhibition makes you realise the impact and weight of his work. Newton claimed to be a “gun for hire”; he would take photographs for anyone if they paid but his art and style shines through.