Sleepless Nights and Lots of Naked Women

Walking into the elegant lobby of the Museum für Fotografie, I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback by Helmut Newton’s massive prints of nude women adorning the main stairwell. Yet somehow the  red-carpet, and of course the vintage-quality photographs, made it look classy. As can be assumed, the current Helmut Newton exhibit has hundreds and hundreds of photographs of unknown naked women, but what I found unexpected, and more intriguing, was the ability to get to know Newton better through personal anecdotes available throughout the exhibit.

How did Newton get involved in photographing nude women for a living? Put yourself in his shoes for a moment… Imagine this: You’re defending your doctoral dissertation in front of a hard-to-please jury of professors, each word leaving your mouth echoes in your mind, your mouth is getting dry and your already clammy hands start to shake. What would anyone in their right mind advise you to do in this situation? Imagine them all NAKED. This trick has helped the best of us in times of desperation, and apparently, the “imagine everyone naked” trick was also what got Newton’s career booming according to his wife.

What Did His Wife Think?!

My favorite part of the exhibition was a room called “June’s Room” – June Newton being the surviving wife of Newton. Instead of focusing on her own family photos of her and her husband, June lends the room to a colleague and travel companion of Newton who presents the documentation of their trip to the Baltic Sea together –  from Newton reading Kurt Tucholsky novels to taking rest beneath a tree where he finds enough calmness to talk on the phone with June every day. These personal moments are touching and really show a somehow familiar side to Newton that most people overlook because of the excessive nude photographing.

Another highlight of the exhibition is a documentary where a reporter gets June Newton up close and personal  – and not via nude photography – but with a raw and uncensored question and answer session. The video explains a lot about Newton’s private life, his start in photography, and of course the question that is burning in everyone’s mind  – did she trust her husband around exceedingly gorgeous naked models all day? June adamantly supports her husband’s work, and her answer to this question is that of course she trusted her husband, or in her own words “you can’t fuck a model and shoot her at the same time.” Her logic makes sense – Newton’s photography is brilliant and clearly takes a lot of discipline and focus.

  • Museum für Fotografie  Helmut Newton – “White women / Sleepless Nights / Big Nudes,” June 2nd – November 18th 2012. Tuesday – Sunday: 10am-6pm