‘He Felt I Was a Strong Woman’: Two of Helmut Newton’s Muses on What It Was Like to Work With the Notorious Fashion Photographer
Models Sylvia Gobbel and Linda Morand remember career-changing photo-shoots.
“My women are always victorious,” Helmut Newton once surmised. Of the great fashion photographers of the 20th century, the German-Australian photographer was among the most influential and likely the most imitated. From the 1950s through the 1990s, he perfected a frank, erotic vision that pushed the boundaries of fashion photography.
Certain models came to figure prominently in his oeuvre. These were women who, in Newton’s view, were more than attractive models, standing out as emblems of an empowered sexuality. Among these were Arielle Burgelin, Sigourney Weaver, Gunilla Bergstrom, Charlotte Rampling, and Henrietta Allias (who famously graced the cover of Sumo, Helmut Newton’s extravagantly oversized book). Newton once remarked, “I like photographing women who appear to know something of life.”
Currently, the online fine art photography space ONGallery is presenting a rare selection of Newton’s most highly regarded images. Below, we speak with two of his significant muses, Sylvia Gobbel and Lisa Morand, along with ONGallery director Keith Allsopp, offering insights into the legendary fashion photographer’s career.
Sylvia Gobbel on being chosen for Sie Kommen:
Linda Morand on the Infamous Jackie O shoot for Vogue:
“For my entire career, I had tried NOT to look like Jackie… I was disguising myself (rather unsuccessfully) with short hair and later with plucked eyebrows and dark lips, very un-Jackie. One day I met Helmut Newton who encouraged me to celebrate my own beauty and own my image. He said I should not cut my hair, but wear it long and big, because it suited me and the look of the time.
“He convinced me to stomp around the streets of Paris dressed in haute couture. I did wear couture at the time and had several garments in those styles. It was impossible to resist the temptation to be in Vogue and work with such a great master. (I had worked with him in 1966 at the French Space Center. Those pictures were very good but it was before Newton developed his distinct style).
“We used Vogue studio at Place de Bourbon. I remember that Ursula Andress was also being photographed that day, by someone else. She remarked that I looked so much like Jackie. We went to the American Embassy and the Ritz. He would stake out a location, have me stand there, near policemen or Marines, and have me stroll by. Newton stood across the street and shot with a telephoto lens. It was all very unobtrusive and the Marines and police didn’t realize that I or they were being photographed.
“For the shoot, he directed me to be very forceful, angry and strong, with a serious face. This was contrary to my more gentle, gamine style. The results are a testament to his skills not only as a photographer but also as a director. They looked like paparazzi style photos of Jackie.
“The use of my name was important because as it turned out I looked exactly like Jackie O. She was livid. When the photos were published, people were calling Jackie from all over the world, freaking out that she was in Vogue. If you read the fine print it said I was Linda Morand (Forquet de Dorne), a ‘certain client.’
Rumors of my parentage abounded. Oleg Cassini, the designer who was also romantic interest of mine, was convinced I was Jackie’s secret half-sister. I was appalled. I denied it.”
Dealer Keith Allsopp on Rare & Controversial Triptych:
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