Month: November 2013
1995 was a funny year for me. I was just starting high school. I was finally, for once, finding a comfortable group of friends to hang out with. Skateboarding has been a part of my life for as long as I remember, but it wasn’t until high school that I really felt like I could enjoy being around other people. Skateboarding had finally helped me find these people. Up until then, I was pretty much on my own. I had friends on an individual basis, of course. But not like this.
Together, we would sit around, talk, some of us learned how to smoke, or drink, or just do things we didn’t need to be doing in general. We’d watch skate videos and yell at each other, we’d go skateboarding, and we’d try to find girls to bring into the group. That’s how it worked, we were a tight group and we kept it that way.
Saying that the film Kids portrays a life similar to my own youth may be a bit shocking to someone that may know me now, but didn’t then-and I get that. This movie is kinda fucked if you watch it from an adult perspective–especially if you are one of those adults that spent their youth on a cul-de-sac in a gated community. Sure, I wasn’t 12 years old smoking pot on the couch with my peers in a New York apartment, and my parents were pretty awesome people that kept an eye on me. But they gave me a lot of freedom to hang out with whomever I wanted, and trusted me to do the right thing. A lot of the time, I did. That’s not to say all my friends did. Skateboarders are a notoriously diverse group of people, after all.
In Kids, Larry Clark paints a picture of a modern, realistic pair of teenagers much like any average teenager you might know today. They ride skateboards, smoke, and lust after the opposite sex, generally doing whatever they can get away with. I remember my dad watching the movie and telling me that ‘those guys are a couple of shitheads’. They certainly were, but it’s not like I couldn’t relate to them on some level. (Yikes.)
If you want the basic plot of the story given to you, Kids is a story about what unsupervised young people are like in real life. It’s about AIDS, it’s about skateboarders hanging out, and it’s about tragedies in parenting. Some people refer to the film as a wake-up call to parents. I never saw it in that way, at least until just recently watching it again. When a guy explains how to roll a blunt to young teenagers openly in a city park in the film, I laughed. That’s where I learned how it was done—not from people I knew, but by watching the movie Kids. I now realize I could very well have learned it at the skate park, if I had been so inclined.
I’m straying from the point I meant to make, so let me tell you about the movie. ‘Kids’ is an honest, unsettling, but entirely engrossing film. When you watch it, at times, you could almost be convinced that you were watching a documentary about youth and AIDS. Or if you are a skateboarder, it’s about some people you may know. You’ll dislike the main characters right from the get-go, and even more as the movie progresses. They are, as my dad so eloquently put it- “shit heads”. But if you really pay attention to what’s going on here, you may learn a thing or two from them. Kids certainly scared me straight for a while.
Helmut Newton is one of those names I’ve seen a million times. So often, in fact, it wasn’t interesting sounding at all to me. It wasn’t until recently when reading about the passing of Norman Mailer that I stumbled upon his actual work. What I quickly came to find was the fascinating story that was his life.
He found his first camera at the age of 12, and worked for a photographer in 1936. A bit later, he fled Germany after his father was briefly interned in a concentration camp just before World War 2. Along with his family, he fled to South America, and eventually ended up working as a photographer in Singapore. This lasted a couple of years, until he was interned by the British authorities, and sent to Australia. After his internment he joined the Australian army, and when WW2 finally ended, he became a British subject and officially changed his name to Newton.
At this point in his life, he primarily focused on fashion and theatre photography, which brought him to collaborate with Wolfgang Sievers, a fellow refugee from Germany. Together, they exhibited ‘New Visions in Photography’, which helped bring New Objectivity to public light. In the 50s, he lived in London, and continued to work with the fashion industry, contracting with Vogue magazine, and then some other French and Magazines after his eventual departure to Paris. At the end of the 50s, he briefly returned to Melbourne, Australia, before returning to Paris, where some of his most bold work ever began to take form.
Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar featured Newton’s work prominently in the 1960s. He developed a specific style of semi-erotic photography at this point in his life. Much of his work hinted at sadomasochism and fetish, but wasn’t so outright to be labeled as pornography.
In 1970, newton suffered a heart attack. Although his pace of life changed significantly, his boldness in photography kept it’s steady, exponential pace forward. In 1980, the Big Nudes series was released. Big Nudes featured rigidly posed, almost cold looking photos of women with bold, powerful posture that was a significant departure from other work at the time. Newton also shot a number of pictorials for Playboy magazine around this time period. Newton continued pushing forward well into 2003, and just after his death A Gun for Hire was released.
While much of his popular work features some kind of nudity or an implied sexual undertone, I feel like some of Newton’s best work lies in his portrait photography. I’m without a doubt that he is one of the most influential portrait photographers I’ve had the pleasure of learning about.
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