Topshop is to showcase one of Helmut Newton’s most interesting photographic concepts. The ‘Newton Machine’ was first developed by Newton himself in the early 1970’s. Reflecting his sometimes humorous and irreverent approach to fashion, the machine allows the model to become subject, stylist and photographer simultaneously.
Staged in a bespoke photographic studio within the Oxford Street flagship, the machine will be available for use by Topshop customers. Working closely with Helmut Newton’s long-time agent Tiggy Maconochie and his long-standing assistant Fifi, the set-up will be as close to the original concept as possible. Images taken by the shopper will then be displayed in a gallery within the store as well as on TOPSHOP.COM
The machine’s original purpose was to capture the subject as they see themselves, which draws parallels to today’s obsession with engineering ones self-image. (Facebook, dirtdirtydancing.com, amongst others are today’s comparisons.) Newton noted in the Winter of 1972 that, ‘Lately a new fashion had developed among the young fashion photographers, many of them live with their favourite model and only photograph her. Often the models are much better at their job than their boyfriends. It shows in the pictures. This gave me an idea: I have had a machine built, which is hooked up to a motor driven camera. The Machine has a timing mechanism, which can be adjusted by the sitter. It’s up to the model to decide whether she wants to work fast or slow. A mirror is placed next to the camera so she can check her pose, a strobe light is connected to my magic box, before each exposure a bell rings and a warning light blinks: all this designed to keep the model on her toes and keep her excited.’
The machine will reach a new generation of fans whose understanding of new technology will breathe fresh life into the machine, bringing it into the 21st century. These modern day subjects are not only in control of how the image looks but also of how, and where, it is seen.