PHOTOGRAPHY: The controversial cult status of Helmut Newton, one of the great masters of photography, continues long after his 2004 death.
Melita Zajc
Melita Zajc
Our regular contributor.
Published date: August 18, 2020

For some, Helmut Newton was a feminist, for others, he was a woman-hater. Of course, the man is not his work. As Susan Sontag said in one of the TV shows we see in this documentary, it is not uncommon that masters adore their slaves, executioners love their victims, and a lot of misogynous men «say they love women but show them in a humiliating way». Newton did just that. But to say he was misogynous would be overly simplistic. The complexity of the work of this master of photography goes far beyond the simple dualism of man and work. Just take his historical significance as an example. Audiences of today might easily identify the positioning of women as objects in his celebrated works. Yet we, the generations who were partying to the music of The Cure and Grace Jones, will also remember how very liberating his photos were when we saw them for the first time. Just as with the music of Grace Jones and the Cure.

The triumph of visual culture

It is, of course, not by chance that their songs we hear in the film are about images and the gaze. They were, together with Newton and his photos, the agents of an important break within the cultures of the global north, a rebellion against the …


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