One of the cradles of mankind, China has been through more than 5,000 years of evolution. From yellow ashes to grey forts, the civilisation China is a long and eventful story to tell. Continue reading
I see how the prevailing power of media influences the world of our memories. Acknowledged with the sober facts of the world, we can’t tell reality from fantasy. Media are a container of authenticity, however, from which it has gone far; it lets go the necessity of being authentic. Continue reading
After the relocation to Horseferry House, Christopher Bailey is leading Burberry to a new direction. Continue reading
This stunning actress and budding Hollywood star is certainly made from sugar and spice, yet for this issue of WestEast, she appears different to her many previous features in Asian magazines — more worldly and with several international blockbusters under her belt. Continue reading
Sex sells! The works of Helmut Newton, the surrealistic artist renowned for capturing 1920s Berlin with uniquely stylised images, are powerful aphrodisiacs. His classic yet erotic black-and-white pictures advocate a tough femininity. Of 20th Century photographers, few but Newton could fully elaborate the tender sensation of a woman’s skin. Dramatic and powerful, his works shed light on fear, desire and decadence, making him a pioneer in the field of erotic photography.
The marriage of emotion with a specific scenario always provided the framework of Helmut Newton’s art. A half-opened door, mirror or stairs, kitchen or lobby all became secondary characters in his photographs of women. His works are a medium of erotic poetry and speak of a sensational tension and soft sexiness. Glossy skin provides his attractive women with a measure of self-defence, giving them confidence and a stronger ego. In each woman’s face, the spirit glows.
The Rise of the Jewish Photographer
In 1932, the twelve-year-old Helmut Neustädter bought his first ever camera with 3.5 Deutsche marks, and became an assistant to the renowned Berlin photographer Else Simon at the age of 16. To escape the tyranny of Nazism, Neustädter left for Singapore, where he worked as a photographer for Singapore Straits Times. His Jewish heritage caused his eventual expulsion, and he went to Australia, where he began his career in 1944 as a photographer for Australian Vogue in Melbourne. He later changed his name to Helmut Newton, and returned to Europe in 1950 with his wife June Browne (also known as Alice Springs). Two years later, Newton established himself as the first photographer signed by American Vogue, and after a year with British Vogue, Newton settled down in Paris in 1957, where he began a collaboration with French Vogue that was to endure 25 years. His nudes caused a stir in international society, and he soon became a long-term contributor for Italian and German Vogue, Playboy, Stern and Life.
Exploring the Extremity of Female Bodies
Newton avoided shooting in a studio, where women could only pose before a flat white sheet in an unfamiliar scene. Though it made his days much busier, he preferred to use his camera on the street, capturing women in public and private. Living in an era in which images of women were heavily stylised, Newton explored the totality of the female body, fighting the prevailing prejudice that all women were either prim ladies or whores. The sensational style that he developed, a new aesthetic of the female body, further evolved into an approach to fashion, combining and surpassing refinement, sharpness, decadence, coldness and incisiveness. A true radical, Newton made fetishism and bondage the subject of fashion photography. He might dress a model in a resplendent outfit, complete with furs, or fishnet tights and a lace bodice. In a Helmut Newton photograph, a model’s delicate visage and sexy lips are charged with confidence and an ego that is suggestive of more dangerous temptations. This was in the 1940s, when conventional definitions of femininity tended to be negative.
The Bellicose Eroticist
In an interview, Newton boldly declared, “In my book, art is an obscene word. I like vulgarity, and am always interested in bad taste, which is more exciting than good taste, which, in fact, does not exist in anyone’s imagination. Good taste is nothing but a set of standards that people measure things against.”
In an interview with Newsweek, he revealed that for him, creation was a business service: “Others take photos for art’s sake, but not me. They love it if their works are exhibited in galleries or museums, but that’s not the reason why I take up my camera. I open the camera shutter for any price.”
At the end of the 1960s, he came up with the idea of celebrating avant-garde art by relating it to the female body. With a range of breathtaking erotic photos, he shook the foundations of the fashion world. He merged the gulf between fine arts and pop culture and earned the nickname “the Bellicose Eroticist”.
The Manifesto of Feminine Power
Newton primarily established his own photography style in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Disgusted by overly-elaborate images, Newton believed that the meaning behind a photograph should be free from encryption of any kind.
“In an era dominated by plutocracy and jet engines, the public admires superstars and celebrities, and poised women with flawless makeup and sumptuous jewellery. Newton was unquestionably the sovereign celebrity photographer of the time. He was in constant pursuit of a new definition of beauty. He outfaced accusations of misogyny, and […] sculpted many tough women with his flashlight, who fearlessly risked scandal and condemnation,” commented Philippe Garner, Head of the Auction Department, Christie’s International.
The Semi-Erotic Album
Newton was obsessed with the fashion of Yves Saint Laurent. In the “Rue Aubriot” photo series, shot for the brand’s Le Smoking Suit, Newton depicted a multifaceted woman who eventually became an icon of modernity. This finely-crafted image expressed the aloofness of Parisian women, disdainful of convention. The image was subsequently acclaimed by fashion’s bad boy, Jean Paul Gaultier, as a classic. Newton captured the toughness and solitude of the woman in trousers in a sophisticated ambiance.
The character stands in the dark, shot against the light –a signature technique in Helmut Newton’s aesthetic. He was inspired by sunlight after dark clouds in Berlin to create this style, which he called “black light”. In 1977 Helmut Newton decided to make a semi-erotic album. In such a social environment, to carry out this idea would require great caution. He decided to buy dummies to create a tableau with real models that was imbued with suspense.
Before the Berlin Wall was dismantled, the city was suffocated under totalitarian rule, which, however, did not halt Helmut Newton from continuing to excel at what he was best at — shooting female portraits. An erotic desire covertly penetrated the vein of the city, especially in the Glienicker Brücke area between Berlin and Potsdam, where secret agents shuttled through. Events sometimes resembled those in John Le Carre’s spy fiction, luring Newton to press the shutter.
The Indictment against Feminist Criticism
In Helmut Newton’s photography, women dominate the frame. It looks as if they themselves decided how to dress and pose. Before his camera, women are never coquettish; they stand nude, a statement of independence in the 1960s.
Alongside critical acclaim came outbursts of wrath from feminists, who rallied against his works. In their eyes, Newton’s works did not celebrate the beauty of the female body, but propagated chauvinism. They criticized his glamorisation of S&M’s violence and humiliation, and splashed paint on his photos. Were Newton’s works expressions of his fantasies, or explorations of the power of women? Newton responded to Alice Schwarzer, Chief Editor of Emma about sexual discrimination and racism with a boldly defiant statement: “I’m a feminist. All women in my photos are strong! I love those girls! What the feminists think is totally a product of misunderstanding! To lock women in a beautiful appearance is to imprison them. Graceful looks and bodies are static; they are like a mask that anyone can project onto. But this idea has never crossed my mind.”
“All my images are raw. I use no technological media to alter existing reality. I capture only the reality that I see.”
In the surrealistic, ambiguous fantasy that Newton created, the borderline between imagination and reality completely vanished, and his undisguised images reveal the subconscious of the viewer.
“I only shoot those I like and admire from my heart, regardless of their fame,” he declared in an interview. “If a photographer denies being a voyeur, he is an idiot who is frigid about images.”
Newton’s iconic style has had a great influence on modern-day photographers such as Ellen von Unwerth, Wayne Maser, Jürgen Teller, and Terry Richardson. Newton’s works are like stills from a road-trip: Cannes, Monte Carlo, Venice, Rome, New York and Hollywood are all favourite scenes. Indoor space, streets, a kitchen, a park, the seaside or a garage, or even the balcony of his home in Monte Carlo, were the stages where his spotlight shone.
A Modern Metaphor
Helmut Newton fled to Australia to escape Jewish persecution during World War II. In October 2003, Newton donated his wealth of photos to the Berlin Museum of Photography and founded the Helmut Newton Foundation, which many considered a sign of reconciliation with Germany.
Throughout his life, the shadow of the Baroque-style building across from the old Berlin train station – once a casino, now the Berlin Museum of Photography and the site of the Helmut Newton Foundation – never faded from his mind, for it was the last building he saw as he left Berlin.
On 23rd January 2004, Newton was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles, which Karl Lagerfeld described as his “last work.” He was laid to rest in West Berlin, next to Marlene Dietrich.
Nude, the Elegant Liberation
During his years of collaboration with fashion designers, ‘fashion’, ‘nude’ and ‘portrait’ were his core areas of creation. He used the term, ‘Minimalism’ to assert that ‘the less models wear, the more they express’ and accordingly liberated female bodies and imbued them with the power of attraction. Carsten Ahrens, Director of the Weserburg Bremen Museum in Germany, argued:
“Between fashion and lust is a kind of chemistry that intoxicates. What Newton was interested in was not just fashion photography. He brilliantly rendered a key that symbolized power and wealth to women’s self-aware sexuality. In these photographs, woman never appears objectified; Newton liberated a new generation of women with an elegant nakedness.”
Be it the ‘Big Nude’ series inspired by RAF Terrorists, the topless waitress flirting with a cruise passenger, the confident naked movie star at the poolside, or the thrilling night view from a motel, Newton never failed to capture the cold charisma of a confident woman.
Art critics regarded him as a solitary maestro who used photography to create a flamboyant vanity, portraying the dark side of humanity, while resisting common morality and politics. Perhaps it was his personal mixture of calmness, rationality, and an unruly nature that allowed him to create a contemporary humanism within his camera, and new, powerful visual language
Text: Chih-Hung, Lin
English Translation: Ren Wan
Photo Courtesy of Helmut Newton Estate & Weserburg Bremen Museum
Published in Issue 27 SPICE, 2009
The saga of the Blonde Bombshell
Marilyn Monroe (1926 – 1962) dispelled a post-war haze. She swept away bleakness and sublimated lust and desire. Her mysterious eyes inspired the prosperity of her times and a fantasy like no other. At the 82nd anniversary of her birthday, the world retraced her iconic allure and innocence that once graced the silver screen and the minds of men and women alike. Continue reading
“Have you ever seen the mountains bathed in shafts of red and interwoven with endless sea of clouds? The bloody red shafts are fiery and lucid, eagerly mirroring the sky. At such a moment, it feels like that we exist in a timeless space. Underneath our feet is the solid earth of history, and above our heads is the lucid red splendor carrying the reflection of the sky. There, no differentiation exists.” — Tim Yip in ‘Rouge: L’art de Tim Yip’ Continue reading
The world debut of Taiwan’s primary movers and shakers.
Because value is not about size and quantity, the most precious gem might at first seem the most trivial — and Taiwan is a case in point. The main island of Taiwan, Formosa (meaning “beautiful”), tells that this is someplace unusual, nurturing a cluster of glitterati who sprinkle their fame, talent and influence all over Asia. For such a small island with a population of only around 23 million, Taiwan has produced a disproportionate number of Asia’s biggest stars. It must be something in its unique culture and history, or just something in the air…
This phenomenon might be an interesting subject to study to sociologists and geographers; but WestEast would simply explain this very character of Taiwan as a blessing that has given this island an intangible quality that helps inspire its people.
Joshua Lin is probably the very first to create a panorama of the most influential Taiwanese, who are more than subjects in photographs. True, they are all souls possessing unique traits that exist in no others. They might not be internationally famous, but that doesn’t make their stories less of a glory. You may see from their eyes and motions that they refuse to stay in a thoughtless peace; they have strived to be their very best. Somebody with ambition; somebody with the Taiwanese spirit.
Here WestEast presents a series of some of Taiwan’s biggest glitterati.
One of the first Taiwanese persons to be on the cover of ‘Time’. Not until A-Mei’s rise on the stardom did mainstream Taiwanese pop culture realize the undiscovered charm of the aborigines. A-mei is also known by her birth name Chang Huimei and her identity as an aboriginal Taiwanese pop singer. Born in eastern Taiwan, A-mei established herself to the Taiwanese general public in 1996 with her debut album which was followed by instant mega success. A-mei is frequently addressed as the Diva of Mandarin Pop music and ‘the Pride of Taiwan’, which gave her high exposure in the international scene and a range of awards worldwide.
An exceptional charm set Chang Chen’s destiny with the silver screen. Since his play in his debut ‘A Brighter Summer Day’ at the age of 13, he has been an irresistible star to international famous film directors and has played a myriad of challenging characters, including in Wong Kar Wai’s ‘Happy Together’, ‘2046’, ‘Eros’, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s ‘Three Times’ and music videos for infamous DJ Shadow and Korean band Brown Eyes. Empowered with his outstanding acting talent, Chang Chen has for many times been nominated as the Best Actor in film festivals in Hong Kong, Berlin, Rome and Cannes.
Actress, singer and TV hostess Dee Hsu started her career by forming a duo with her sister Barbie Hsu called “A.S.O.S” in the late 90s. Hsu later shifted from singing to hosting TV entertainment shows that has built up her image as an iconic fun, sexy woman.
Amongst the cluster of the hottest Taiwanese new stars, Ethan Yuen is definitely the one to watch. This red-hot actor, started as a swim athlete and model, brought the TV drama ‘Fated to Love You’, in which he played the lead, a record-breaking reputation amongst Taiwanese episodes and attracted more than four million audiences overseas. His fame has even drawn the attention of Wall Street Journal for a feature about this phenomenon.
This fathomless kind has forever a mysterious allure, and this is what makes Joseph Chang’s name a siren in Taiwan. Chang studied Arts & Craft at Fu-Hsin Trade & Arts School where a line of Taiwanese celebrities graduated from. At the age of 25, his reticence and maturity became a charm that paved his career as a model, idol, theatre actor, and now movie star. As this mysterious man almost makes his image inaccessible, he unveiled his wilful side on the screen of ‘Eternal Summer’, in which he had an affair with another guy. Not until that movie did the Taiwanese realize how fathomless this silent man was.
Born to a famous family, her father Jason Hu being Taichung Mayor and her mother Shaw Hsiao-Ling being former legendary actress, Judy Hu is a celebrated personality no less. After graduating from Oxford University with a Public Administration Masters, Hu worked for Ang Lee and has acted in range of blockbusters including “Bridget Jones Diary 2” and “Breaking and Entering”.
Her family gave her a beautiful name, but Kelly Lin is out to prove that she possesses more than just external splendour. Born in Taiwan in 1975, she moved to Los Angeles at the age of nine, but, after graduating from the University of California Irvine with a Degree in Economics and Comparative Literature, chose to return to her homeland to plant the seeds of career. Having graced an array of international magazine covers including French Marie Claire and Vogue Italia, she was hailed by FHM as “Asia’s Sexiest Woman” in 2002. Through her many roles as an actress Kelly has proved that she can play all kinds of characters; solemn executives, cunning sweethearts, and wanton prostitutes are all made vivid by this volatile actress who is already on her way towards international stardom.
Graduating from the Journalism Department of the National Chengchi University, Momoko Tao has established herself to be one of the best renowned anchorwomen in Taiwan. Singer-writer Tao is also known as the most adored student of famous Chang Hsiao-Yen; and her winning “Golden Bell Award — Best Hostess” has proved her potentiality.
Taiwanese rock music admirers all look up to songwriter, singer, guitarist and DJ Orange Chang Chen-yue, for he is the definition of local rock music. Born to an aboriginal family, Chang was exposed to church choir and guitar which aroused his interest in music, and inspired him to enter the scene in 1993. Chang’s infamous songs, which play around Pop, Rock and Hip Hop, portray Taiwanese youth culture that not many other musicians pursue. His dedication to music has brought him to North America where he had a tour concert in cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Vivian Hsu has a sweet face which makes her forever associated with angel. On winning in a “Talented Beautiful Girl” contest held by Taiwan CTS TV in 1990, Hsu waved farewell to her humble work and joined a musical trio named “Girls Team” and later chose to develop into the modelling and movie industries. In 1995 Hsu moved forward to the music scene and succeeded in putting her name into Taiwanese and Japanese music scenes by forming music bands Black Biscuits and later The d.e.p and playing R&B, hard rock, and J-pop. Apart from that, Vivian is also an accomplished lyricist, writing lyrics for Jay Chou, Vanness Wu and Gigi Leung.
As a Taiwanese born model, film actor and singer, Wilson Chen began his career in his late teenage years, and later entered the movie industry. His endeavor was showed in his roles in his debut Blue Gate Crossing, About Love, Silk, Tripping and Japanese film Sugar & Spice: Fumi Zekka, exposing himself to the Asian movie scene.
Nobody but Wu Bai makes Taiwan’s rock music poetry. Born to an ordinary family, Wu Bai chose to take up the guitar at the intersection between music and university. This very decision gave a chance to his band China Blue, which had tour concerts in pubs all over Taiwan, making Wu Bai’s name a synonym to ‘live music’. Gradually Wu Bai’s fame stretches overseas to Hong Kong, Singapore, Mainland China, Malaysia and even the United States. Apart from making his own music, he creates and composes music for a myriad of Asian stars such as Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Faye Wong, and Karen Mok. Despite his rugged image, Wu Bai’s music is inspiring, stimulating, and his lyrics expressive and poetic.