Helmut Newton. Big Nudes
This spectacular collection presents a series of photos from 1979-1981. All of them show similar views of the models: nude (except for high heels), strong, and as comfortable wearing only their own beauty as when they wear anything else. Each pose seems almost confrontational – except that the model appears quite aware that you, the viewer, are looking, but just aren’t worth her attention. There’s no scale in these images, but I can’t imagine any of the models being less than 180cm tall. They cast that much presence, irrespective of actual size.
You might argue the claim that all the photos show nudes. There are many picture-pairs of the models fully clothed on the left-hand page and unclothed on the right, in the same pose. Even these clothed images are really about the figure, though. Seeing the woman herself makes me look back at the fashion photos, and pay that much more attention to the figure that the fashions enclose.
I especially like the fact that Newton glorifies figures as they are. Sylvia (the cover model) and Brescia, for example, show physical features that aren’t very fashionable right now, and that some might “fix” with cosmetic surgery. Wrong. These are beautiful women, period. Any flaws lie in the standard to which they might be held, not in their stunning figures. I fault Newton only for excluding non-European features and skin tones from this collection. The esthetic choice is his, of course, but those omissions weaken the whole. Not a lot, though – this book is still a necessity for any collection of figure photography.
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