PROPERTY OF VIBEKE KNUDSEN
'A woman stands alone in a city street at night. Helmut Newton's camera has captured an intensely private moment, the figure's inner calm is a marked contrast to the rakish cut of her suit. The woman in the photograph evokes a familiar figure from 19th century French art, the cold-eyed (and always male) dandy who, in Baudelaire's famous formulation, has 'no profession other than elegance'. The photograph is unusual in Newton's corpus in that the woman is fully clothed, her long legs and pinstripes echoing all the other strong verticals in the picture. As though to repair the omission, Newton took a second photograph - the same model, same suit, but a nude model in high heels has approached the suited figure and caresses her shoulder and arm. A slight shift in posture of the clothed woman reveals two things previously obscured: her high heels and her painted nails, which match those of the nude. We are being invited to imagine that the two women are one and the same - dandy and streetwalker - undressed in the eye of the hidden paparazzo, Helmut Newton himself.
From time to time, a fashion photograph - that particularly restrictive genre that unites a time, a place, a dress, a face - rises to the level of art and miraculously survives the vicissitudes of taste. This photograph, first published in French Vogue in 1975 is one of those.'
In an 1998 article for the New York Times Magazine, which was devoted solely to the making of these two photographs, Helmut Newton was asked for his recollections of this very singular assignment for Yves Saint Laurent. 'Vibeke was a girl I often worked with in those days. The idea was a man-woman standing in the street at night - the street, in fact, in Paris' Marais district, where I lived for 14 years.
With haute couture collections, you couldn't get the clothes during the day when customers were looking at them. So everything was done at night. Like Brassaï, a great influence on me. I like working at night. And I don't use a flash; I use the actual street lighting.
When you make a picture, you think, this is a nice one. You don't know it's going to mean anything. My pictures are very worked, but they mustn't look labored. Ideally, they look like something that really happened; a photographer just came along and snapped the picture. What I find interesting is working in a society with certain taboos - and fashion photography is about that kind of society. To have taboos, then to get around them - that's interesting. Pornography - where everything is allowed - is boring. (Christopher Benfy, 'Flashback: Helmut Newton's famous 1975 photograph...the story behind the picture, New York Times Magazine, Part 2, Spring 1998.)