Any photographer who says he’s not a voyeur is either stupid or a liar. -Helmut Newton
What really makes me laugh is when a young photographer who never had a chance to actually meet him attempts to invoke the name of Helmut Newton as though they were good buddies. It almost always happens during a conversation about natural light, and how they’ve “studied” his work and apply his “philosophy.” I value the time I had with Helmut, whether working or just having lunch, like no other. He certainly had much to teach and opinions about everything. But, you know what? Helmut was every bit as real as you and I and the exact same struggles and challenges we face were those he had to tackle. Want to know what Helmut was really like? Try this on for size:
I say to a person, I want to see you naked, and in my head I say, Well I would like to fuck her but the reason I don’t is because I’m scared to gets AIDS or something…
Helmut really struggled with finding the line between what was socially acceptable and what wasn’t. He tended to blame his German upbringing. Even though he contributed to Playboy for some twenty-odd years, he had a tendency to sometimes go too far, to be too provocative for even a men’s magazine. He claimed (magazine publisher) Hugh Hefner once told him to shoot something nice, not that “kinky stuff you do for French Vogue.” Helmut also despised anyone calling photography art and one might want to duck if they even uttered the words “good taste.” Those were two things that would get his temper up in a hurry.
Stop and think critically for a moment. When digital photography started putting “real” cameras into the hands of more people, why was it so much popular among young men than it was women? There have been many women, such as Eve Arnold and Annie Leibovitz and Diane Ackerman and Diane Arbus, who could shoot circles around any male photographer. Why didn’t more women jump at the chance to pick up a camera as quickly as did young men? Easy: young men were less interested in the art and more interested in the possibility that a camera might be an easy way into a young woman’s pants. The same answer explains why more men give up on chasing a photography career after two or three years. A camera is not an aphrodisiac.
After 30 years of this mess, I still love photography and still prefer natural light but don’t think for one moment I don’t consider how “sexy” a photo is before I post it. I watch the statics for these pages carefully and you can be sure I’ve noticed how much more attention is paid to a nude photograph versus a non-nude. Tuesday’s photo, as lovely as it is, received less attention than any image the past 30 days. I’ve all but stopped posting landscapes because they’re often ignored altogether. What makes natural light photographs popular? Because they’re the best thing next to being there.