Not Caught In The Act

In our contemporary society, sex is no taboo. It is everywhere, in the things we watch, the things we read and the things we buy. Sex is also no stranger to the art world, and the two have an ongoing relationship which stems back to the beginning of time. The line between what is 'tasteful' and 'artistic' however, and what is not, is a controversial subject. Where is the line between artistically depicting sex or sexually explicit aesthetics and simple pornography? Do the two have to be mutually exclusive or can they overlap?

Naked In Public

BAPS arranged a stunt to question these ideas, our aim to take a real life model and photograph them naked at the Helmut Newton Foundation inside one of the current exhibitions. One of the first photographers who comes to mind when you mention sex (besides David LaChappelle and Robert Mapplethorpe), Helmut Newton is infamous for his black and white nudes. His extremely erotic, fetishized images of naked or semi-clad women are notorious, and make him one of the most influential photographers dealing primarily with sexual aesthetic.

Edging around the gallery, we were filled with anticipation. Our model had disrobed in the bathroom and was walking around in only her shoes and long black coat as we scouted out suitable locations for the images. The task of photographing her naked was actually a lot easier than you would imagine, and we managed this successfully thanks to their lax curators, who seemed more interested in texting than monitoring the group of young people acting suspiciously and loitering around secluded corners. Although we weren't caught, I am sure that if we had been, there would have been a furor and we would have been expelled from the space; despite the subject we were photographing being the main muse of Newton's work and indeed the topic for the exhibitions.

Nude model at Helmut Newton Nude modelling next to Helmut Newton's photography. Photo: Chris Phillips

The current exhibitions show Newton's 'White Women', 'Sleepless Nights' and 'Big Nudes' series. The 'Big Nudes' series from the 80's is particularly iconic, the images 'Sie Kommen (Naked and Dressed)' of four super models clothed and unclothed is particularly powerful.