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Bold and Naked: Fashion Takes New Positions!

Bold and Naked: Fashion Takes New Positions!

Society with Ruchi

You can view it which ever way you like! Awed, aroused or disgusted. The Helmut Newton: White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is most definitely the new controversial talk of the town.

The exhibition features the entire contents from Helmut Newton’s first three groundbreaking books: White Women (1976), Sleepless Nights (1978), and Big Nudes (1981). The 205 photographs in these books established Newton´s reputation as the supreme recorder of female identity, and as a master craftsman of the photographic medium. A complete set of the prints in the exhibition has been acquired by the MFAH.

Each country has its own complexities about sex. The US shares its own set of complexes while India which is the land of Kama Sutra remained somehow refrained from public displays of affection. The middle-east is a whole different story. What makes it even more interesting is to hear what Houston, the melting pot city, has to say about this exhibition.

MFAH photography curator Anne W Tucker, in conversation with Lights Camera Action, said that they were unsure if there would be a controversy or not to bring such an exhibit. “I am glad that the exhibition is doing so well and has not evoked any alarming controversies,” says Tucker.

The exhibition has appealed to Indo American News journalist Jawahar Malhotra, however he does think that Texas is too prudish for this kind of a display. “The settings were very important for Newton,” pointed out Jawahar and that is evident in his photographs that are mostly set in lavish hotels and ballrooms of Paris, New York, Iltaly and London. Later on the artist chooses white, plain and simpler backgrounds which seem more confident.

According to Pune, India based Mid Day Editor Nuzhat Aziz, nude photography in India has not been able to get too much exposure. However photographers like Vikram Bawa and Madhur Shroff have tried their hands and have been successful. “On canvas too, Indian artists like MF Hussain, who was described by the Forbes magazine as the Picasso of India, had boldly depicted Hindu Goddesses in the nude, the fact that they were not well received is a completely different matter,” added Aziz.

“The exhibition of work by the prolific German-Australian photographer Helmut Newton titled ‘White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes,’ is indeed a mould breaking step in the medium. The images move beyond the accepted standard of how females could be portrayed. Considering that this exhibition is being showcased for the first time now in Houston, Texas, just goes to show how art as a bold form has finally come of age. Each photograph is a bold and sharp representation of women. The pictures speak for themselves. They are creative, bold and aesthetic,” says Nuzhat.

Here They Come II, Paris from the series Big Nudes 1981

!NEWTON-H 4365-8

As a woman with a passion for fashion and photography the exhibition is very engaging, daring, and erotic. It might not be the cup of tea for everyone, but will leave you thinking. What I liked the most, is the women in the photographs are extremely bold, unapologetic and secure.

There were always speculations and rumors that Helmut had sexual relations with the models but Tucker clarifies that it is not true. “It was another expression of art form and these were some very strong women and in most of the shoots Mrs. Newton was present herself,” says Anne. “I have interviewed one of Newton’s model and she said that he was totally respectful and professional.”

“Newton’s models are looking straight at the camera and I must remember these pictures were taken in the 70’s and 80’s which was such a radical change in the fashion world,” says Anne. “There is an erotic component to it but not vulgar,” she added. An extraordinary approach to fashion and photography.

The Exhibition is now open till September 25, 2011. Click here for more information.

All photos © Helmut Newton / Maconochie Photography


  1. Good article Ruchi! Thanks for the quote ! I enjoyed the exhibit (works better for guys, I guess) but Newton was a huge influence on me as I was growing up in Europe where he had an immense following.

  2. Stylish post.



  1. Museum Buzz! | Lights Camera Action | Houston Indo-American Society News - [...] then do not miss the summer exhibits like Helmut Newton: White Women • Sleepless Nights • Big Nudes: July…

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