At the Helmut Newton Foundation where they reveal Helmut Newton Unseen, Mario Testino and Jean Pigozzi reveal their latest exhibitions, respectively titled Undressed and Pool Party. In conversation with Mario Testino and Jean Pigozzi, we discover the enduring relationship between these two legendary photographers with each other and of course, with Helmut Newton himself.
For Mario Testino, Helmut Newton has served as a constant source of inspiration, or at least from when Mario Testino became Mario Testino back in the 90s. At the time, he had a kind of admiration for Newton’s tumultuous life; having to move from one place to another and fleeing from Germany during the world war. Despite these challenges, Helmut Newton slowly created an undeniable identity, which became impossible to ignore. With his body of work exemplifying a powerful elegance that is iconic to this day.
Testino recalls his early career back in the 90’s, where he slowly started to gain confidence and top publications began to give him the creative freedom that every photographer strives for. At this time, a french editor encouraged him to liken his editorial work with his private work — specifically his nudes. It was when he blurred the lines between his private and commissioned work that he really began to define his style as a photographer; and it is this transition that is the focus of his new exhibition at the Helmut Newton Foundation - Undressed.
Testino explains that he had chosen this format for Undressed because he realised that, in order to transmit the energy of a magazine image where the attention is only focused in the photo and nothing else, he would have to blow up the photos so that they really capture the attention of the viewer. In Undressed, we can see plenty of gargantuan nudes that resonate immediately — it almost feels like they are alive. He remembers how two years ago, he paid a lot of mind to the curation of his work. Today, he is presenting his photos as if they were on billboards, giving them a special kind rawness that you can automatically connect to the photos, much like a human landscape of emotions.
Mario Testino and Jean Pigozzi became friends a long time ago. In fact, according to Mario, it was in Pigozzi’s stunning summer house, that he really discovered his style. The summers were hot, Reggae music was playing, and people were drinking Rosé half naked and just having fun. Of his legendary pool parties at the Villa Dorane, Pigozzi laughs and says, “We always had pretty girls around many stars and models, some of them never stay while some of them never leave. It’s not like Instagram nowadays, I think the images that people upload to reflect their lives now are not very interesting”
Pigozzi boasts that he actually invented the selfie back in 1972 during his time in Harvard. Back in those perfect summers, he would take pictures of the parties he hosted, always in analog, which was his aesthetic medium of choice. To this day, Pigozzi firmly believes that these photographs looks infinitely better than a phone snap. It is these stunning analog images that fill Pool Party, Jean Pigozzi’s latest exhibition at the Helmut Newton Foundation.
Jean Pigozzi had always been a good friend of Helmut Newton, the latter often visiting his villa at the Cap d’Antibes where Pool Party is set. Here, Jean Pigozzi would introduce Helmut Newton to many of his friend’s whom the latter would then photograph. According to Pigozzi, Helmut Newton was a really simple and economical person; he had no assistant and he would shoot with simple cameras — no light, no make up, just a 36 frame film and sometimes a reflector. He spent a lot of time considering even the smallest details as he was a known perfectionist, he would change a little flower in the background and say, “Darling can you move your leg slightly up’’
“He is so different from me’’ says Pigozzi, “In that sense, I really don’t work with poses and people in my pictures don’t look beautiful, l also prefer to produce books instead of doing exhibitions, I enjoy the process way more and the fact that books last forever, and exhibitions only for a few months’’
Finally, both photographers fondly look back at the prolific amount of work that Newton produced throughout the years, as they discuss the effect that photography has had on both of their careers. They described it as a drug that’s simply impossible to control, it makes you produce nonstop and it was a feeling that these three legends shared.
HELMUT NEWTON FOUNDATION
Words by Lucia Maraver
View our Interview with Jean Pigozzi