After stints in London, Paris, and Melbourne, German-born fashion photographer Helmut Newton returned to the City of Lights in 1961 to work for Paris Vogue, settling in an apartment in the Marais district. He would go on to spend his most pivotal years there, before eventually moving to Los Angeles. Newton’s provocative photography makes a Paris homecoming through June 17 with the most comprehensive French exhibition of his work at the Grand Palais.
“Helmut Newton 1920-2004” explores the photographer’s massive oeuvre, from his experimental nudes to his quirky still lifes. Concentrating on the themes fashion, nudes, portraits, sex, and humor, the retrospective combines editorials in magazines like Paris Vogue and French Elle, as well as Polaroids and vintage prints. Organized by Newton’s wife, June Newton, the exhibit showcases more than 200 Newton works, including the iconic French Vogue “Le Smoking” photographs that combine Yves Saint Laurent’s eponymous jacket with the actual act of smoking; a 1986 portrait of Salvador Dalí; and an image of a pair of bejeweled, manicured hands tearing apart a roast chicken.
Newton’s powerful imagery often went beyond traditional fashion photography and gave strength to the female form. And his erotic photographs emanated a sensual vibrancy, placing women in roles traditionally meant for men.
The exhibition follows a Berlin exhibition of Newton’s Polaroids and a Dallas show of photographs from his three books, “White Women” (1976), “Sleepless Nights” (1978), and “Big Nudes” (1982).