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Is Helmut Newton's photography artistic or pornographic?

Extracts from this document...


Amelie Küster

Extended Essay

October 2003

Visual Art

Helmut Newton – Work

Is Helmut Newton’s photography artistic or pornographic?

Word count: 3925

Research Question

Is Helmut Newton’s photography artistic or pornographic?


Photography is a very interesting media to convey messages, feelings and opinions, and leaves a wide range of styles and methods how to do so.

The photographer Helmut Newton developed a way to show his own imagination of reality and express his feelings, which is criticised by many people, for as some do not see the art in his work. They rather accuse it to be pornographic.

By looking at the development of his work over time and the true meaning of his pictures, the legal side of publishing these pictures and the reproaches of his so called greatest enemy, the feminist Alice Schwarzer, I tried to show how the questionwhether Helmut Newton’s work is artistic or pornographicis related to a created war between sexes, the battle between Newton and Schwarzer.

Whilst there are many books about photography, I only could find a few information about Newton's work, mainly taken from his own autobiography, for as public places, such as libraries did not had any material. I guess this is because of the context of his work. Nudity does not seem to be at its right place in a public library. However, I was willing to research Newton’s work in detail at first hand, when I for example went to one of his exhibitions.

But this all just showed me how interesting this topic is. For as I only see the artistic material in his work, others totally exclude it from the art-section. This seemed to be a matter of opinion, a matter of choice.

...read more.


[8] Though it is not just Newton's own work that bashes people, but more or less his influence, the influence on the viewer, the outside, the society.

Newton is said to be one of the best fashion photographers of his time. He often surprises us with work that goes far beyond what an magazine editor would require.

It all began in Paris in 1961, when he started his career at the French Vogue. It is a well known fashion magazine for women, that often shows the way women are looked at. A few years later, the simple fashion photos became more taboo-braking as he used implications of bestiality[9]. One example of this is the series he produced in the American Vogue in 1975. There, women with metal chains were presented in leather cloths, the reputation of fashion being clean and light was destroyed by a single picture series showing dirt and dark colours on the skinny bodies of the female models. Although the women were so powerful illustrated, they had a sense of submissiveness to the viewer. These pictures were telling a story; a story that was different from mind to mind. It was different to what people were used to. This was not just fashion photography anymore. It was new and it was created by Newton.

Fashion photography started in the early 20th century and is said to create an image of the society, reflecting the reality and creating an important role that women play in it. It is used to sell the product that it displays, using the agency of temptation and the desire they inspire. From the start, fashion photography had close similarities with portraiture and it was not clear, where the dividing line between these two categories laid.

...read more.



(Helmut Newton)


The following pictures are added for the reader of this written piece to decide for his or her own whether Helmut Newton’s photography is pornographic or artistic.



  • Helmut Newton, Autobiographie, 2002, Bertelsmann Verlag
  • Helmut Newton – Work, Taschen
  • John L. Tomkinson, The Enterprise of Knowledge, 1999, Leader Books S.A. Publications
  • Longman Dictionary of contemponary English, Third Edition
  • Alice Schwarzer, Alice im Männerland – eine Zwischenbilanz, 2002, Kiepenheuer&Witsch
  • EMMA:
  1. EMMA 12/1987
  2. EMMA Sonderband 5
  3. EMMA 06/1993
  4. EMMA 07/1978
  • World Wide Web:
  1. http://www.rpadel.dircon.co.uk/rp_helmut_newton.htm
  2. http://www.uol.com.br/modabrasil/london_link/english/helmut
  3. http://www.aliceschwarzer.de/content/c1052749630440.html
  4. http://www.rpadel.dircon.co.uk/rp_helmut_newton.htm
  5. http://www.freitag.de/2000/49/00491501.htm
  6. http://www.aliceschwarzer.de/textevon/kernthema_4,html

Pictures taken from various websites, but mainly from the google-picture-gallery.


I wish to acknowledge the help and support of the following people:

John Rolfe – for his great help in supervising and supporting me during my study

Max van Sambeck – for his information about the legal rights

EMMA – forgiving me some information about their work and about Alice Schwarzer

Regina von Kempis-Küster – my mom, for travelling to Düsseldorf with me to see Helmut Newton’s exhibition Helmut Newton-work


[2] http://www,aliceschwarzer.de/content/c1052749630440.html

[3] Bible, Exodus 20,4

[4] John L. Tomkinson, The Enterprise Of Knowledge

[5] Longman Dictionary of contemponary English

[6] http://www.rpadel.dircon.co.uk/rp_helmut_newton.htm

[7] http://www.rpadel.dircon.co.uk/rp_helmut_newton.htm

[8] Helmut Newton, Autobiografie

[9] http://www.rpadel.dircon.co.uk/rp_helmut_newton.htm

[10] www.uol.com.br/modabrasil/london_link/english/helmut

[11]Helmut Newton – Work, Taschen

[12] = „Alice im Männerland – eine Zwischenbilanz“ (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2002)

[13] „Alice im Männerland – eine Zwischenbilanz“ (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2002)

[14] Alice Schwarzer, EMMA 12/1987

[15] German law, $184 StGB Strafrechtliches Gesetzbuch (=Criminal/Penal Civil Code)

[16] German law, §823 Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (=Civil Code)

[17] EMMA Sonderband 5, page 6f

[18] http://www.rpadel.dircon.co.uk/rp_helmut_newton.htm

...read more.

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