art of Helmut Newton and state a vision of modern fashion photography through his work and visual influence on the 20th century art. The conception of the female figure as a subject of art has changed through history and evolved according to the demands of society at any specific time or place. From the invention of photography the vision of nude photography has changed following the changes of society, and the fashion woman, the one that characterizes the world of publicity and media, took different shapes and sizes with each decade. From the flunky, fluffy nymphs that were on vogue from the late 1800 until after World War I, evolving into the thin, almost boy-ish model that was the standard image of the 20's, the curvy and voluptuous vamp of the 50's, to the skinny, dominating woman that portrays the second half of the 20th century. The image of woman has changed in the world of photography, and it was probably from the very world of photography that this image has changed in the minds of the people as well. Since fashion photography is the one that states the look that the perfect woman is supposed to have, the establishing of the stereotypes and the image that characterizes each decade.
The female body has always been appreciated as an art subject, even from the very beginning of civilization. The reason, most philosophers and historians consider, is that the female subject contained the magical fascination of maternity and love. The first representations of female nudes go back as far as the prehistorically times, when small clay figures or hand paintings were created by the first humans that inhabited the land in the Neolithic age. Passing from every period of history, ancient Greek art, medieval painting, and even some semi-abstract work of contemporary authors, have represented and focused on the female nude as a root of fascination and esthetic feeling. The harmonious lines and combination of shapes and volumes have captured the attention of the public for many generations.
The female nude has been a subject for arts since the beginning of art itself. The image of the female body has seduced the interest of artists and viewers in every single culture, in every single country and in every single period of history. When photography appeared as the new form of art, the main art of modern a contemporary age, it was only to be expected that it will adopt the female figure as a subject of interest, continuing a very long tradition of representation of beauty, mystery, seduction and erotism.
Fashion photography began as early as the 18th century. Pictures of clothes where printed in magazines, and often hand-colored. The centre of this fashion world was, of, course, Paris, and the pictures that appeared there were shared with other countries, thus establishing themselves as the centre of the fashion world, where the new styles were born and developed. This was not available at the very beginning, since early photography techniques, such as daguerreotypes, that were not suited for mass printing, was all they had available for capturing images.
Fashion photography appeared almost as early as photography itself. As soon as the technique was developed enough to be made in large production and magazines became to be illustrated with photography rather than drawings, the artists and models turned to this new form of communication to penetrate the market with growing interest from the public.
Later, as the techniques developed into easier to copy, photography could be printed in papers and magazines with commercial purposes. It was then that fashion photography became available for the mass public and a new era in fashion began. This happened much later, at the beginning of the 20th century, when the magazines pictures and the new Hollywood craze took over the fashion world and began a fast and furious succession of changing clothes, make-up and hair styles, that would individually characterize each decade, by very short periods of time. The turn of the 20th century, usually called the Edwardian era, had a clear inclination to the beauty and esthetics. This period was characterized by the seeking of pleasing images in everything, intending to create a glamorous elegant atmosphere. From the images we have from this period the general impression is that high class society was on vogue, even if it was, as much as any other time, a much selected group and had limited access. La belle epoque, as they called it, was a time of beauty and fashion from every point-of-view.
It was a new era beginning for women and the way they were seen and fit into society. The late 19th century established a new vision with the introduction of modern beauty techniques that were to change the female image. Beauty salons became popular and accepted, after they had been rejected during prior eras. It would take a long time for women to openly accept their pursuit for beauty, after many centuries of advertising beauty as a gift of nature. Even at the beginning of the 20th century many women were still ashamed of being seen in public at the cosmetic parlor, and those of rich society still attended beauty treatments in secret.
But the war changed the view of society and established new concepts of importance. Clothes became more practical and easy to wear, demanding less time for dressing up and arranging them. Accessories were also changed and many were gradually eliminated. The 19th century concept of a girl never been seen in public without a fan in her hand, gloves and jewelry slowly disappeared and was replaced by a new age of commodity. Photography brought the new attraction of the century: the movies, the future vehicle in which fashion and social tendencies were to travel from that moment.
Paris was the world capital of the fashion and it was there that many new styles were born and adopted by the masses. With the invention of photography in the 19th century, fashion had taken a new direction. Every new discovery by the fashion world could now be recorded and shared all over the world. Publicity became the new language in which fashion expressed itself and magazines took more power than ever in the eager minds of people, starving for beauty and glamour after a war period that had devastated the beauty and sensuality of their lives.
Nude photography and fashion photography are not entirely separated and not entirely related. Fashion refers mainly to the world of clothing, but not completely or exclusively. Fashion refers to the whole overall look that people achieve in order to be according with their time and society. Even nude photography is highly related to fashion, since it presents an image of the actual woman and the style she adopts.
If we compare a nude picture from the beginning of the century to one on the latest decades, even if they are both nude, there can be stated clear differences of fashion. Not only on the hair and make-up style, but even in the pose, arrangement, and model herself. The body is different, which shows the preference for one specific kind of physique, that expresses the way of thinking of each different period. Their attitude towards the camera reflects the vision of the artists towards women and their role in society. The freedom of nudity is always combined with many other elements that let the spectators know what kind of person she is and the kind of world she lives in.
A few artists that developed and explored the art of female nude and fashion photography were Baron de Meyer (1868-1946), Edward Jean Steichen (1879-1973), George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968), Horst P. Horst (born 1906, lives in New York), Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), and they stated the influencing style for future works and artists.
The use of contrast and gray tones to emphasize the picture of the model are the most notorious element in this kind of photography. Light grey was the most used, leaving dark tones only around the model's face, arms and lap. The background displays glittering tones from reflecting materials such as jewels. The pose is natural, and the elements used are arranged in vertical patterns to create a feeling of formality to the image.
The modernist style mixed with a classical vision in its arrangement, sometimes reflecting a bit of influence from the local arts into photography and the perception of images and esthetics. We can see in some pieces the influence of constructivist art, in the use of rectangular shapes. The contrast between the model and the background is the key to the image. The head and shoulders stand out while the lighting given evens the tone, accentuating the flesh to contrast even more with the strong hued background. The use of props and elements in the background was usually simple and minimalist.
The background had the role of emphasizing the figure, not take the attention from it.