|© Estate of Helmut Newton|
By Vibeke Knudsen
Rue Aubriot is one of the most enduring photographs I have had the privilege of being a part of.
It was the last shot in a series of photographs for the collections for French Vogue. Working with Helmut Newton was always “charged," as he was a god among fashion photographers.
The shoot took place at night. That was the only time that the collections were available for photography. We had breezed through the other shots and it was about 2 am when we pulled up in front of Helmut’s studio to do this last shot in the street.
As I came out of the (small) mini van, where we changed outfits, and stood under a single streetlight, it very quickly became clear that the energy had shifted and heightened.
It wasn’t just that the photographer was Helmut, the editor for the shoot was Francine Cressant, the hairdresser was Alexandre (lui meme), the makeup artist Jacques Clement, and that the suit being shot was a perfect example of YSL - at his best. It was, indeed, a collaboration of masters of their trade… and then there was a moment of magic thrown in. It seemed that we were all aware that something special was attached to the moment.
Helmut insisted on shooting with the streetlight only, which meant I had to stand completely still for two seconds - that’s a long time in stilettoes on cobblestones!
At this point, the atmosphere was that of total focus. No one but Helmut spoke.
While he was shooting, Helmut asked us all to come back the following night. He was already planning his next shot. He wanted me to use the same pose with a nude model (Aya) standing next to me. I was asked to wear the same suit. Aya was not completely nude in this shot; she wore high heels and a hat with a veil. Helmut included both shots in his book, White Women.
Since then, the two photographs have often appeared side by side. They have remained relevant, modern and perfectly classic.
There have been many attempts to replicate this photo, many ”inspirations” to ”duplicate” this photo. I have been part of a few indirect homages and even when they were beautiful, they have always fallen short.
Such is the special vision, focus and quality of Helmut Newton. All hail to the king!
And as for ”behind every great man, stands a great woman.” Never was this more true than in the collaboration of Helmut and June. June Newton, aka Alice Springs, was Helmut’s muse, inspiration and partner. June is a wonderful photographer in her own right and Helmut was her greatest fan. The woman behind Helmut was a part of his greatness.
I feel very fortunate to have worked as much as I did with Helmut Newton and very proud to be the model in Rue Aubriot. Thank you Helmut, thank you June.
Vibeke Knudsen was born in Denmark and has worked as a model in Europe and America for 40 years. In the 70's she often worked with Helmet Newton and considers herself fortunate to have collaborated with many of her profession's most gifted photographers. She now spends her time traveling. See this image and over 100 others at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Helmut Newton: White Women • Sleepless Nights • Big Nudes.