For the Love of Helmut

By Tara Shannon

Working on location inspired Helmut Newton - and an inspired Helmut was a really playful Helmut.  This snap was taken during a really great shoot for French Vogue in the south of France where everything was flowing effortlessly and he was in a great mood. June was with him and their Hollywood friends were coming by to say hi.  Bob Rafelson brought Jessica Lang who had her newborn daughter with her.

We were in the garden having lunch and everyone was taking pictures of each other, laughing and stepping in on each other’s shots. I started shooting Helmut, pretending that I was him.

He yelled a lot when shooting, so I mimicked him: “Helmut! That’s it! Don’t Move!  Francois, POWDER! , Katia, HAIR! “  Everyone started joining in, telling him to arch his back or find his light. He was actually a really good model!  He liked being teased.  He just loved having fun. He wanted work to be fun. He wanted life to be fun.

I shot with a Pentax Auto 110 that I had bought in Japan. It was a complete ultra-miniature SLR system. fully automatic with no user-settable adjustments.

It was a perfect camera to travel with as a model. I could buy 110 film in any airport and every drugstore in the world could develop it in an hour. He was wild about it. June shot this pic of Helmut and I with that camera.  He called it The Dwarf appealing totally to how he worked- his equipment being as pared down as possible. He found amateur cameras more innovative than professional.  I think my Pentax appealed to him so much because Helmut really and truly  was a reportage photographer at heart. He was the Weegee of the fashion world- a visual shark. He was brilliant at capturing those lurking shadows so full of subtext and pathos that were blatantly hiding within the seemingly superficial.

His point of view was the rabbit hole. He left it up to the viewer to fall down it as deeply as they wanted to go.

Former model Tara Shannon was once referred to as "the woman of a thousand faces." Learn more about her on her official website.

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