Helmut Newton Saddle II
Helmut Newton's photographs are as distinctive and unique as his signature style of photography that is so much a part of him. His images have been described by many as 'aesthetically pleasing', with the use of strong lines and shapes to create powerful compositions. The use of silhouettes in particular add an element of mystery to some of his more famous works.
The following article talks about one such image - Helmut Newton's photograph "Saddle" from 1976 which was produced using Silver Gelatin printing technique.
Helmut Newton Saddle II
One of my favorite photographs taken by Helmut Newton during the 1970s shows a young lady sitting on a saddle with a piano in the background, the young lady, leaning forward in anticipation of the picture. It has this aura of excitement and tension around it, with the light coming through the camera creating dramatic shadows and contrasts between different areas of the room. . This photo along with others like it were used for promoting Helmut Newton's work internationally in exhibitions and publications.
This photo is not only memorable because of how well composed it looks but also because of what happened after I first saw it when I went to see it in person. When I left the exhibition space, I remember walking past the photographer who took it and saying out loud (very quietly) to myself "I want one of those".
HELMUT NEWTON PARIS
Another stunning composition by Helmut Newton. Here we have yet another intriguing photo showing an intimate moment caught on camera. As always, the subject matter is extremely appealing. What is especially noticeable about this photo is that the woman leans backwards quite dramatically with her head completely resting against the wall, almost as though she wants to escape somehow. Her body language conveys that idea perfectly. Another thing that adds to the intrigue is the fact that both subjects are wearing quality clothing. Looking carefully at these details reveals hidden messages.
Here is another interesting detail I discovered upon examining this photo above. Notice how the human is inside the alligator's mouth. This must have been a stunt to portray alligator's as dangerous animals that eat humans. Why? Well, I'd say that Helmut Newton is not a fan of alligators and what they offer HAHA. This is one of the more iconic images Helmut Newton has portrayed and taken photos of though as well.
SILVER GELATIN PRINTING
It wasn't until years later when I had just started working in photographic processing that I got to know someone who worked at a local print shop called Lomography where we would occasionally talk about our mutual interest in film photography. He told me that he knew the owner of a small company in France which made special gelatin silver paper which created very high contrast black & white pictures. That led me to visit the website of the company and eventually purchase several rolls of it. But before doing that, I needed to understand exactly what makes Silver Gelatin paper so interesting.
So here goes...
Gelatin Silver Paper Basics
When you look closely at a piece of normal glossy printed paper, there isn't really anything remarkable about it. However if you examine it under magnification or make a photocopy of it, you will notice tiny little dots all over it. These are actually polymer beads embedded into the surface of the paper. They appear transparent due to being coated with a thin layer of emulsion containing a chemical called bromide ion. Normally these polymers do not change color when exposed to sunlight and therefore can be seen clearly without darkroom treatment. This property gives traditional papers (including regular old photo paper) a dull appearance when viewed up close.
But if you expose a sheet of ordinary paper to light through a negative transparency, the tiny beads become hardened and form a clear coating that covers everything except where light does penetrate. In order to view the original picture, you need to develop the image chemically or digitally. Once developed, the resulting print becomes visible again thanks to the presence of the previously invisible latex polymer particles. The result is a print that appears flat and solid instead of translucent and soft as usual. A good example of this effect is Helmut Newton's photograph "Caged Bird", which uses gelatin silver paper to produce a striking silhouette. You may wonder why anyone bothered to develop it since it doesn't show anything but once you get your hands on a copy, you'll soon find yourself wondering how the printer managed to achieve such results.
For people who prefer digital methods, the process is similar although it's done differently. Instead of chemicals, software is used to manipulate the pixels of captured images. Because of the difference between the two processes, the end product usually requires additional steps to remove unwanted artifacts caused by developing either traditionally or digitally. For instance, when making a regular positive print from a scanned image that was originally shot on 35mm film, you don't normally expect to see things like moiré patterns unless you've messed up somewhere along the way. Moire patterns occur when two adjacent sets of line elements interfere constructively or destructively depending on whether the pattern repeats horizontally or vertically. If the same set of horizontal lines are repeated vertically, the interference effects cancel themselves out and moires disappear. On the other hand, vertical repetitions cause a disturbing jagged effect known as cross modulation. Some printers implement anti-moire algorithms designed specifically for high resolution scans and output files. Other problems specific to digital development include halation, flare, streaking, banding, posterization, etc., which often require further adjustments to improve quality.
In addition to the above mentioned problems associated with traditional development, there is also the issue of availability. Most professional labs offering traditional development services tend to be located near major cities and universities. While online developers offer faster turnaround times than ever, the problem remains that most photographers nowadays live far away from places capable of providing such service. Fortunately, modern technology now allows us to bypass this obstacle altogether. With Silver Gelatin paper, all you need to do is scan your negatives onto computer hard disk drives, send the file(s) via the Internet to specialized companies specializing in producing low cost custom gelatin silver prints, pay for shipping fees, and wait for your new favorite prints to arrive right inside your mailbox! No driving required nor waiting in long queues. And best of all, unlike traditional techniques, you won't need to worry about wasting precious time on fixing botched jobs. Now that's great value for money!
If you're still skeptical about trying it out, read this short story below written by one of our customers who recently purchased Silver Gelatin paper from us and tried it for herself. She wrote to tell us she loved her new prints and wanted to share her experience with everyone reading this post. Isn't that amazing? We hope you enjoy discovering the wonders of Silver Gelatin paper too!
"My husband gave me his copies of Helmut Newtons 'Saddles'. After seeing the prints last Sunday evening, I decided to buy mine today. I ordered 2x2 inches and 1 inch wide prints. My daughter bought hers as gifts for her friends. Today I received my package and I couldn't believe my eyes!! Every single print turned out better than expected!!! I am thrilled beyond words!!! Thank you sooo much!" - Maria C.