Forget what you think you know about fashion photography  – Helmut Newton’s work was so much more than the clothes his model’s adorned. Covering nudes, portraits, sex, and humor, the Grand Palais’ Newton exhibition proves just how far the arms of his portfolio stretch. It’s the first retrospective of the photographer’s work in France since his death, and it’s just as impressive as the posters plastered around the city promise.

Featuring over 200 pieces – in polaroids, working prints, and monumental works – the exhibition is organized thematically, and is dominated by his once taboo and provocative style. All his photos have a certain jaw-dropping quality to them, whether it be the sheer size of his portraits, the androgynous nature of his models, or his erotic tones. In other words, these aren’t the type of pictures you’ll be finding in your next Vogue anytime soon.

The one characteristic that really unites all of his pieces together, however, is a feeling of empowerment. As the exhibition’s site explains,

 Nude or in a dinner jacket, Newton’s women are powerful, seductive and dominant – never icy but always impressive or even intimidating. They are liberated women who take full responsibility for the freedom of their bodies, timeless and unclassifiable, open to all fantasies. They are rich women, who have conquered the world and its money, and luxuriate in refinement, from evening gowns to bed. Luxe, classe et volupté could be the motto of the Newtonian woman.

The exhibition puts just the right amount of photographs on display (giving you a good idea of his oeuvre without overwhelming you), and the Grand Palais’ Southeast Gallery is the perfect size to match the grandeur of his work. The only downside to an exhibition here is how many people it attracts. Luckily if you buy your tickets in advance for a scheduled time, you can skip the long line altogether.

 Helmut Newton lasts until July 30, 2012. 


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