Last weekend I began scanning some of the photos I made with my cheap, plastic Holga camera at the Community Zoe get-together at Twentynine Palms, California, last year. I’ll be posting them in my next few blog posts, beginning with today’s. These photos are of Madame Bink in Joshua Tree National Park.
When I was in Berlin late last month, I bought a DVD in the shop at the Helmut Newton Stiftung. It’s a documentary from 1988 titled Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge.
I watched it yesterday and I thought it was pretty interesting as it followed Newton around and had various interviews with him (in English and German) plus some people he photographed, including Charlotte Rampling, Catherine Denueve and Sigourney Weaver.
The film is more of a portrait of Newton than a how-to film, but it was still interesting to watch him work. He was always shown working with a tripod, as I recall, even outdoors. For indoor sessions, he used a Hasselblad. Outside (except for one nighttime shoot), he used a medium format Plaubel rangefiner (which I think I actually saw on display in Berlin, along with some of his other camera gear).
He also seemed to have an idea in his head for what he wanted to do before any photo session began. Indeed, he was very specific in finding a model with a particular look for what he had in mind – though he admitted that over time that look would change. From what I could tell, he utilized others to find his models for him, as he would call an agency or someone he knew in every city he visited to find who he needed. Those were in the pre-internet days and he depended on models bringing their books with them to see how they looked nude. In one instance, when he first interviewed the model, she did not have any photos with her, so he chose to go with her anyway, guessing what she looked like rather than ask her to disrobe for him. (Apparently, he guessed wrong and the photos were not successful.)
An interesting segment was when he talked about printers and was seen with one of the people who printed his photos for him. Here, too, Newton had specific ideas of how he wanted his prints to look, and I was shocked when he took some recently made prints he was not satisfied with and tore them up right then and there in front of the printer! I mean, wanting a different looking print is one thing, but to tear it up right in front of the guy who made the prints seemed rather tactless. Then Newton explained why he did it: he didn’t want any of his prints – even unsigned ones – getting out into people’s hands. For commercial job prints, he told his printer to use plastic (i.e. RC) paper and that those prints should start turning brown after a month or so.
Perhaps the most memorable quote from Newton was this (said in German but translated with subtitles): “There are two dirty words in photography – ‘art’ and ‘good taste’.”
(The DVD is not available in the US, but it is from Amazon Germany. Click here if you’re interested. Although it’s released by a German company, it’s in the NTSC format and will play on North American DVD players and TV sets.)
Sometimes things work for you and sometimes they don’t. I think I wrote how I was disappointed last month in Berlin when Angela Gheorghiu, the singer I looked forward to hearing in the opera Tosca, cancelled due to illness. Well, I read recently that she will be singing Tosca in London shortly, but she wasn’t scheduled to do it. Rather, she’s filling in for someone else who’s fallen ill! Oh, well, maybe another time. I just hope that she’ll be in the Carmen and Traviata that I have tickets for next season.
Finally, something about people who possess high A.Q.’s.
I drove to my aunt’s house for dinner on Friday night via the highway. As I was on the highway entrance ramp (which is flat on the ground and not elevated), I saw that the vehicle in front of me tried to bypass not one but two cars in front of it. The ramp is only wide enough for one full car, so this driver went around to the left, its right half on the paved ramp and the left half off the paving and on the dirt shoulder. It got in front of the two cars, but how much time did that driver really save by doing something idiotic?
Then something similar happened on the way home. I was exiting the highway and was already on the exit ramp when I saw that the car behind me zoomed past me in the highway’s right lane and then cut in front of me. When I got to the intersection up ahead, the light was red (as it usually is there) and that other car was waiting for the light right I front of me. So I ask again, how much time did this driver save by acting like an idiot?