Evoking the experience of being in a club, the exhibition ELECTRONIC—FROM KRAFTWERK TOTHE CHEMICAL BROTHERS will transport you through the people, art, design, technology, and photography that have been shaping the electronic music landscape.*
What do we mean by “crime” in America? The question should be easy to answer—we have detailed codes and statutes that forbid certain conduct defined as a criminal offense. We have an elaborate system of policing, prosecution, punishment, and incarceration that involves millions of people. But there’s a great deal more to how we think and talk about crime, and certainly to how we see and enforce criminal laws.
From the beginning, the prosecution and punishment of crime in this country have been profoundly shaped by race, poverty, power, and status. For centuries politicians have stoked fear of crime and exploited perceived crime waves, while our public discourse about crime has been compromised by persistent inattention to our history of racial violence. There is a different narrative about “crime in America” that we have for the most part ignored…
In 1957, Life magazine editors engaged staff photographer Gordon Parks and writer Robert Wallace to explore crime in the United States. The published article, by Wallace and staff editors, was a myopic rendering of the dominant narrative about crime and criminality, emblematic of a discourse shaped by politicians, law enforcement officials, and criminologists not interested in reckoning with pervasive racially motivated criminality.
Parks’ photographs told a different story. As an African American survivor of racial injustice, he was keenly aware of race and class in America, and this palpably informed his photography and his art. He consistently humanized people who were meant to be objects of scorn and derision. It’s this dissonance with a conventional crime narrative that makes his “crime” photos for Life so compelling today. — Bryan Stevenson*
The complete 1957 crime series by Parks—only a few images of which were published in Life—is available now in an exhibition catalog from the suspended Museum of Modern Art exhibition. See links below for details.
*Bryan Stevenson, “The Lens of Gordon Parks: A Different Picture of Crime in America,” in Gordon Parks: The Atmosphere of Crime 1957, ed. Sarah Meister (Göttingen: Steidl; Pleasantville, NY: Gordon Parks Foundation; New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2020).
It’s great to be a provocateur. That’s what the world needs, this provocation. It stimulates thought and it stimulates ideas. It stimulates all kinds of conversations that don’t really have anything to do with the man himself. And who cares about the man himself? We’re looking at his art. — Charlotte Rampling
He was a little bit pervert, but so am I so it’s okay. — Grace Jones
I do consider myself a feminist, but I do consider the expression of machismo as an expression of a culture. Now, of course, Helmet wasn’t simply macho—it was more complicated than that—but he does look at a woman as a sexual object, and also an attraction and an anger toward her… It was actually extraordinary that Helmut was accepted by the industry because he was much more dangerous—much more ambiguous and frightening—than an Avedon or a Penn… Helmut photographed women the way Leni Riefenstahl photographed men. — Isabella Rossellini
Susan Sontag: As a woman, I find your photos very misogynist. For me it’s very unpleasant.
Bernard Pivot: You find him unpleasant?
Sontag: Yes. Not the man, the work… I never thought the man would look like the work. To the contrary. Even if you live through your work, you can be nice. I don’t expect a person to look like their work. Especially when it’s about fantasies and dreams.
Helmut Newton: I love women. There is nothing I love more.
Sontag: A lot of misogynist men say that. I am not impressed.
Newton: I swear—
Sontag: I’m sorry, I don’t think this is the truth. There’s an objective truth. The master adores his slave. The executioner loves his victim. A lot of misogynist men say they love women, but show them in a humiliating way.
Helmut actually loved strong women. — Nadja Auermann
When you’re 20 years old, 1.80 meters tall with blonde hair, you feel like a hunted deer. And HelmutNewton’s pictures made me stronger. I controlled the situation. I wasn’t the deer. I was equal to the hunter. I could decide what to do. I think a lot of people misunderstood that. — Sylvia Gobbel
I was very shy; I’d just turned 17. There was never a moment where I felt uncomfortable. I was just an amazing experience where I walked away saying, “This man is incredible.” He had a sort of twinkle in his eye—nothing serious, everything understated and very witty… Definitely, when I look at the pictures, it’s not me. It’s his imagination… I love the fact that I can be this different, through his lens.— Claudia Schiffer
I think he was Weimar. That’s how I think of him—connected to Brecht and Weill and George Grosz, that wonderful period of German Expressionism—that was Helmut. — Marianne Faithfull
Berlin for him was the very best of the Weimar Republic. Everything is possible, everything is allowed… What he liked about me was my guttersnipe style. I was not the usual elegant glamorous woman, but rather I had a portion of originality that comes from the lower classes of society. I suppose he also really like the eroticism of maids… It’s related to this Berlin period. — Hanna Schygulla
I loved my parents, they were great—very different influence on me. My mother was a very spoiled woman and quite hysterical in many ways, but pretty wonderful. And she encouraged me very much to become a photographer. My father was horrified by the idea. “You take pictures on the weekend for a hobby, my boy. You’ll end up in the gutter, my boy.” He was right, I did. But I had a good time in the gutter. — Helmut Newton*
The aesthetic of Helmut Newton—whose era is more distant from us now than the inspirational Weimar years were to Newton’s 1970s heyday—still provokes and intrigues, even in our less frivolous times.
In the excellent new documentary feature HELMUT NEWTON—THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL—now streaming on Kino Lorber’s Kino Marquee—filmmaker Gero von Boehm captures the great photographer’s obsession with the female form pushed to the edge of submission or absolute triumph.
*Quotations and dialog from Gero von Boehm, Helmut Newton—The Bad and the Beautiful, courtesy of the filmmaker, Kino Lorber, and Nadja Auermann, Marianne Faithfull, Sylvia Gobbel, Grace Jones, Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Claudia Schiffer, and Hanna Schygulla. Susan Sontag segment originally from Apostrophes, 1979.
I have spent a great deal of time in Big Bend. I was first there during my Artpace residency, years ago. I fell in love with its remoteness and vast stretches of land and sky. It felt like what I imagined Texas would be, and with each visit, I see something new. I love being there because I feel the isolation of the desert. You can spend days in the backcountry without seeing anyone, and immersed in this solitude, you can begin to connect on a deeper level with the natural world and take notice of smaller things, such as cactus blooms and strange colored rocks.
In one of the pictures I made from here, Looking towards Mexico from the Chisos Mountains, BigBend National Park, Texas, 2020, you can begin to understand the geography. I hiked an entire day upwards to take this picture from one of the high points. The views were incredible. The blue sky seemed to radiate on the mountain peaks, which is why I knew I had to print the picture in a blue hue. After watching the landscapes I photograph through the camera, I begin to take note of peculiar characteristics of color and light. Sometimes I end up staring into the sun while focusing my camera and I see colors and shapes that are not really there. This experience sometimes influences the color of my work, and to me, this color is what the place actually feels like – an embodiment of the place.
I have photographed Big Bend many times over the years, but could never seem to capture its grandness and beauty. I came to this one place a few times over the course of a few days to see how the light changed on the main limestone area behind the river. I decided I wanted to photograph the river illuminated just when the sun hits it for a few minutes, and this is where I took Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park,Texas, 2020. I was drawn to the pink hue because it softened the harshness of the massive walls, and I was interested in how it reflected its shimmering light into the water, which becomes the entryway into the picture.
Every late afternoon on my last trip to Big Bend, I would hike up to this particular area above the Rio Grande, watch the sun slowly set behind me and then point my camera at the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains; it was one of the most humbling and memorable areas I have visited. The stillness of the air and the solitude high above the river was like a dream. This is where I took Sunset on the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains along the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park, Texas, 2020. The orange hue is meant to capture this majesty and also the meditative head space I was in. — David Benjamin Sherry, April 12, 2020*