The Skinny: Legendary Fashion Photographers Capture Their Best Muses

See them at their most intimate.

The Skinny is a series that explores artworks of note currently offered on artnet Auctions. Here, we take a look at three works in the “Style and Glamour” sale—by Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton, and Russell James—that offer a unique, intimate view of American style icons. All three photos were produced by photographers who had close friendships with their subjects, and thus, their lenses often caught these famous women in moments another photographer would otherwise not have been able to capture.

Who: Norman Parkinson

What: Jerry Hall, Russia, Vogue (diptych) (1975)

Why: The British photographer snaps Jerry Hall here in a 1975 shoot for Vogue styled by Grace Coddington and staged in Russia. Vogue was the first fashion magazine invited to take photographs in what was then the Soviet Union; Hall smuggled some of the film in her pants as the team was worried the Russians would not develop the film properly.

In a 2013 interview with the Financial Times magazine, Hall said: “[Norman] was always saying, ‘Climb up on that thing!’ I went up on oil rigs in Russia waving giant flags, stood on a plinth in a red swimsuit in the Red Sea … he wasn’t very sympathetic at all. But he had the most profound effect on my modelling career and my life.”


Who: Helmut Newton

What: Barbara Leigh lying on rug (1990)

Why: This photo of the former model and actress—along with two other Newton photographs of Leigh featured in the auction—was taken at the Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Los Angeles, California. Leigh was well-known for being the first model to wear the Vampirella costume, in addition to her fame for her tempestuous romantic relationships with Elvis and Steve McQueen.

Her,e Newton shows Leigh reclining in nothing but a pair of sunglasses and Chanel heels during a voyeurism-themed shoot for Playboy, for which he took all of her nudes. All three prints in the sale come from the collection of Barbara Leigh and were inscribed by Newton; this particular work features the note, “For Beautiful Barbara.”


Who: Russell James

What: Rihanna Backstage Victoria’s Secret (2012)

Why: Australian photographer James caught this seemingly-spontaneous photo of Rihanna while backstage at the 2012 Victoria’s Secret fashion show in November 2012, only one week after the devastating Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. The runway show that year—which was held at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan—was powered entirely by generators that were secured last-minute, as the city suffered from power-outages in Sandy’s wake.

James had previously photographed Rihanna before, in 2011 in Los Angeles for Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive issue, in which the pop star was entirely nude save for leaves plastered to her body. He cites nude photographs as the most challenging to approach, writing in his 2014 book Angels, “accepting the trust of a woman to be at her most vulnerable, and delivering in return a tasteful photograph that she herself can admire is extremely difficult.” Thus, James had already established an intimate bond with the singer, made more evident in this 2012 photograph.

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