Frames from the Edge – Helmut Newton

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‘Helmut better than anybody was able to explore the unexplored moments of women’s lives, that they really were pictures as if the photographer wasn’t there and he was able to penetrate into intimacy’

We all know of Helmut Newton’s powerfully confident and sexy women but through this documentary, Frames from the Edge (1989) directed by Adrien Maben we see not only the photographer in a new light but also of what he was expressing through his women. Maben  follows legendary photographer Helmut Newton from one photo shoot to another as he travels between Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, and Monte Carlo in this superb film. Towards the end of Newton’s career he had achieved an absolute celebrity status (famously dying at the Chateau Marmont in LA in 1994) and through this film it carefully examines how this photographer deals with his fame, talent and how through this combination created an over all air of mystery. His attitudes to his own celebrity are summed up in his quote about living in Los Angeles away from his native Germany by saying that “I’ve been coming here off and on for seventeen years, from December to March. I love Los Angeles, I love Hollywood, I’m not that crazy about San Francisco which pretends to be very European and cultured and all that and I don’t give very much of a shit about culture.”

The general perception of Newton’s subjects may  instinctively appear overtly provocative but through this documentary it divulged in to the perspective that these slick and statuesque women were radically independent in their own sexualities. Newton journeyed these women into a space where their fantasy’s were their own, for themselves and no one else. Their appearances and the fetishes that were role played were for no one other than themselves (and of course for Newton) but nevertheless giving women the space to perform and recreate completely real forms of sexuality beyond what is even still now accepted as the norm was truly progressive. It can of course be argued that Newton’s position has objectified his models and conclusively women as a whole but these models never look anything other than in control, powerful and incredibly handsome. This documentary also reveals the desire that so many women had to be transformed into looking and feeling like one of Newton’s muses.  The mystery that surrounded these women excluded men, these women were celebrated for being nothing other than themselves and indulging in what they really wanted. As the narrator states in the introduction, Newton’s photographs were from something of the future.

Besides from what the female viewer can get out of Newton’s eroticism his over all aesthetic has been limitlessly influential. Being able to view the way in which Newton shot, selected models and locations is also fascinating.

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