A cigarette?

"June Newton" (1972) Helmut Newton

This is one of the nude photographs that has had an intense impact on me. The author, HELMUT NEWTON, is a specialist in photographing fashion models and nudes. In general, however, his photographs have always seemed to me a little artificial and his protagonists, women, in some way unreal. Always very beautiful, spectacular, with perfectly proportioned bodies. This perfection, however, makes them cold, distant and unreal as I mentioned. The frames where Newton usually places his models are also particular: luxury hotel rooms stuffed with sophisticated furniture, exclusive restaurants, fashion or jewellery stores, etc. Obviously for everything to fit together, the photographer usually chooses clothing that is limited to appropriate underwear and offers us a wide range of garters, stockings, brassieres, etc. Fine. The picture we are now looking at represents for me the antithesis of the formula so often used by Newton.

One day, tired of so much glamour, the author recovered for a moment the sense of the natural; maybe because he was photographing his wife and not a professional model. The truth is that for my taste he got it right. The picture is composed using a medium plane which offers good detail of the portrait and at the same time gives us significant information about the context in which the picture is taken. The foreground, slightly out of focus and with a little overexposure compared with the rest, shows us, without entering into detail and without distracting our attention, that dinner has just finished; a private dinner, without doubt intimate, that has probably taken place in the dinning room or kitchen of an apartment. And after comes the portrait. The face and the breasts or the breasts and the face; better said, both at the same time. The face with a relaxed, peaceful expression is clearly showing satisfaction, the well-being that a good dinner in good company has produced. Because you have the feeling that the dinner has been shared between the photographer and the model. She expresses this naturally, without pretence. To round things off June lights a cigarette, that cigarette that tastes so good after a meal. Maybe, at this point, we can sense one of the artificial elements that Newton can barely avoid in his photographs; the cigarette is already lit while the flame continuous to burn at a certain distance and the resulting pose is clear. No matter: the sensation is magnificently passed on without distortion. Finally, the poorly lit background gives a special relief to the central character.

So to the nudity. The mature breasts, upon which the most intense light is directed, are offered generously, freely and thanks to the loosely opened dress appear framed like a work of art. They are presented to the photographer and the spectator naturally, without shame: as a final gift after the excellent dinner. Itís a second artificial element, of course, because we canít image that it is a typical after dinner event; but here is the magic of this image that manages to give a sensation of sensuality and well-being of a satisfying of the senses that is shared with the spectator. Itís a pity we werenít there Ö

All together this is a simple picture with a simple composition yet charged with a sensuality that without being domestic is believable, within reach of mere mortals and not like others, that belong exclusively to movie stars. An image and a sensuality that I felt in love with.