A new exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, which opens Saturday, features classic images from the famed fashion photographer. Selected from three of his books—White Women, Sleepless Nights, and Big Nudes—images include several of his “greatest hits,” including a provocative image of a woman on a bed wearing a riding saddle.
But sexually charged—even controversial—pictures were his signature. Newton, who died in 2004, was a photographer with a distinctive eye. If you walked into a room and saw one of his pictures hanging on the wall, you’d know it was his. “He always used to say: If you don’t have a point of view, you’re only a technician,” says David Fahey, co-owner of the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles and a longtime friend. “And Helmut definitely had a point of view.” (An image Fahey took of Newton is in the exhibition; it’s a picture of the photographer outside the Chateau Marmont, where he and his wife wintered.)
Says Fahey: “When you think of edgy fashion photography, you immediately think of Helmut Newton’s sexually charged images. I like to call them mini-narratives—they’re stories within a story. And they’re stories that say: ‘Women can be as powerful and as dominating as men. And sexual curiosity is normal.’”
Here a model in Saddle I from the series Sleepless Nights, 1975–78.