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Expo: the naked truth

Sensual, poetic and sometimes downright provocative: nude photography sometimes does not matter literally expose everything. In the nudes exhibition, the work of three becomes world-famous artists brought together in a special way. Saul Leiter, David Lynch and Helmut Newton: three times a lady.
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The beauty of the naked body has intrigued since time immemorial. Just think of the famous Venus van Willendorf , probably already made some 30 thousand years ago by an unknown artist. But also in photography, the oldest of the new media, the nude regularly pops up. Ever since the pioneering days in 1839, the bared female body has been a popular subject. The combination of exhibitionism and voyeurism - with sometimes realistic, sometimes staged work - continues to fascinate to this day, for both the spectator, the maker and the subject. The three photographers in the Nudes exhibition in Berlin are among the most sensitive, experimental and formative nude photographers of the twentieth century.

In addition to his work as a fashion photographer, Saul Leiter (1923–2013) also regularly went into the studio to shoot nude portraits. Almost all of these photos remained locked up during his life. Only a few of his friends knew Leiter's tranquil, intimate black-and-white images. While the American had his color films processed into photo labs, he developed the nude portraits himself in his dark room. The female models were girlfriends or lovers whom the artist portrayed in his apartment in New York. Why Leiter's images barely saw the light of day is unknown. Shame? Joost may know.

Right image: Helmut Newton: Jenny Capitain, Pension Florian, Berlin, 1977. © Helmut Newton Estate.

Fortunately, the impressive works were found after his death. For the first time, these are now shown extensively. Around two hundred prints give a good insight into how the artist saw 'his' women. They are subtle, sensitive, sometimes almost shy approaches to the female body and the female mind. We see beautiful women together or only when they sit back on sofas, are lost in thought while smoking a cigarette or look into the camera smiling.

Image left: Helmut Newton: Debra and Red Exterior, Beverly Hills, 1991. © Helmut Newton Estate.

A similar visual atmosphere can be found in the work of David Lynch (1946). Although best known as a film director, the American also regularly dives behind the camera. In his abstract work, details often fill the framework. Only after further investigation can these be associated with a body. Lynch opts for unexpected perspectives and presents his work in large format, which means that most of his female models are larger than in real life. As in his films, his photography is often surreal, with here and there sexual allusions.

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The combination of exhibitionism and voyeurism continues to fascinate to this day.

Sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit, but always just as puzzling. The extreme close-ups enable the ravishing director to achieve a sense of intimacy, or the illusion thereof. They evoke a feeling of almost tangible physicality, even if only a bare thigh or arm is visible. Alienating and recognizable at the same time. The third photographer whose work is shown is Helmut Newton (1920–2004). According to many, he is the king of erotic photography. He started in the 1970s by photographing nudes that pop up in his fashion series and free work.

Until his death, the naked body was an important part of the images of the German-Australian photo artist. In fact, it makes him world famous and his work still inspires other photographers. In this presentation about eighty known images from Newton's oeuvre can be seen, together with forty images from his archive that have not yet been exhibited. His women, often models blessed with beautiful body, are powerful, confident and shameless. Seductive is an understatement. Apparently.

Right image: David Lynch: Untitled, Los Angeles, 1990. © David Lynch.

Until May 19: 'Saul Leiter. David Lynch. Helmut Newton: Nudes', Museum of Photography, Berlin, Germany.

www.smb.museum / www.helmutnewton.com

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