Before reviewing this book, let me point out that it contains much female nudity in sexual situations that are sometimes on the hard side of what would be rated "R" in a motion picture.
This book is a reissue of Helmut Newton's first book from the 1970s. The shock value of that work continues in this very well produced volume with images of high reproduction quality featuring carefully posed compositions involving sumptuous fashion and beautiful models.
The introduction captures the spirit of the book. "It is the visual inventiveness that make the images memorable." Newton peels away respectability from the outer aura of powerful, well-dressed women to show their carnal natures. For example, in one of the first images, he shows a woman wearing a beautiful dress, who is perfectly coiffed. But the dress is totally see-through. She wears it as though it is totally opaque.
He expresses these personal visions in his own language in brief paragraphs and through the visual images that often suggest a taste for some "rough sexual trade" through the use of props and body positions.
The settings in the book are mostly at the Villa D'Este on Lake Como in northern Italy, in or around swimming pools on the French Riviera, in powerful cars and limousines, on public streets and in public places, and in hotel rooms and bedrooms.
The photographs are all reproduced here in large size with virtually flawless technical details of composition, lighting, and exposure. I have seen many of these images reproduced elsewhere (including the recent retrospective, Helmut Newton Work), but not as well as they are done here.
Through the combination of the text, notes, and large size photographs, you can appreciate more of his subtle work here than elsewhere. At his best, fashion, celebrity, and exposure are intertwined in almost inseparable ways. For example, Paloma Picasso appears wearing her own jewelry in a dress by Karl Langerfeld (who is seen on the facing page wearing a similar outfit) from which one shoulder has been peeled away to reveal her left breast, which in turn is artfully obscured behind her left arm. In a famous Newton image on the rue Aubriot in Paris in 1975, one mannish-appearing model sports a suit by St. Laurent in close proximity to a nude model wearing a chapeau by Paulette. The two and the street scene serve to focus attention unerringly on the contrast in clothing and on the clothes themselves. Nicely done!
As fine as this book is, I graded the book down one star because many of the photographs fall far below the best in the book. Many of the nudes in and around the swimming pool and in the cars were pretty ordinary, in my estimation. It would have been better to create a shorter version of the book that maintained the high standard of the best fashion work.
My favorite images in the book include:
Villa D'Este (Woman with riding crop), April 1975 (p. 9)
Elsa Peretti in Halston's bunny costume, New York, November 1975 (p. 15)
Winnie off the coast of Cannes, 1975 (p. 32)
Lisa in Saint-Tropez, 1975 (p. 34)
Peter in Saint-Tropez, 1975 (same day) (p. 35)
Photographed in Saint-Tropez, June 1975 (p. 46)
Charlotte Rampling, Arles, France, 1973 (p. 89)
My favorite quote in the book is from Mr. Newton's father, "My boy, you'll end up in the gutter."
After you examine these photographs, I encourage you to think about the ways we reduce our communication by keeping a placid, masked exterior to the world. How much more could we accomplish if we were more open? What are the best ways to express that openness?
Look deeply to see the human reality and honesty in every moment!