'In 1980,' explains Helmut Newton, 'I came across some press photos showing the offices of a special branch of the German police responsible for capturing the Bader-Meinhof terrorist group. There were life-size, full-length photographs of members of the group; some were pinned to the walls, other images were visible on computer screens.
I have for a long time collected press cuttings and have often found inspiration in the images and words from the daily press. As was my practise, I cut out the pictures and kept them to hand for quite a while. They intrigued me, but I still didn't know how I might use them. Then one day I had the idea of doing a series of nudes, with the girls standing on a plain white backdrop wearing only high heels, with only light make-up, their hair natural, without artifice: a simple anthropometric image, like criminal ID pictures. I had always been fascinated by turn-of-the-century police photographs. This is why I gave the series the working title "The Terrorists." Soon after, I christened them the "Big Nudes".'1
This print is numbered '2' and the inscription in the photographer's hand confirms it was printed in April 1982 by Marc Picot, Newton's favoured printer at the time, at the Central Color lab, 10 rue Pergolèse, Paris 16e.
Big Nude III was first exhibited, with others from the series, in the Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris in the show Helmut Newton Photographies, 1980-81, 29th October - 26th November 1981. It had been published first in French Vogue, October 1980, within an image in which the first series of Big Nudes are hung around the walls of a room, with close-up details from the images glowing on monitor screens, a Newtonian reinterpretation of the press image that had stimulated his curiosity. Big Nude III was first published independently as a cover to the contemporary art revue Artistes in January the following year. It became the poster image for the Templon show, perhaps inevitably given its seemingly unstoppable progression to a position as one of Newton's most iconic images.
The model for Big Nude III is Henriette Allais. Half French, part Cherokee, she was born in July 1954 in Jacksonville, Florida and raised in Brunswick, Georgia. She studied at a dental school in L.A. and became an orthodontic assistant before trying her luck as a model. She enjoyed some success as a nude model in the US before making the trip to Paris that led to her encounter with Newton. He was impressed with her and worked with her extensively between 1980 and 1981, immortalizing her as Big Nude III, the single most visible image from the series and one of the most celebrated of all Newton's pictures. She, of course, features also in the naked/dressed pair Sie Kommen of 1981.
1 'A Propos des Grands Nus', Monte Carlo, August 1994, in Mes derniers nus, Paris, Galerie Vallois, 1994.