Cindy Crawford at the American 'Vogue' shoot with photographer Helmut Newton in Monte Carlo in 1991.
Season: 3 Episode: 10
Title: Fall '91
Original Airdate: 9/18/91
Appearances: Helmut Newton, Andre Leon Talley, Calvin Klein
DEMYSTIFYING FASHION: HELMUT NEWTON SHOOTS CINDY FOR 'VOGUE'
If the ’90s was the decade of supermodels, it was also the decade of super-photographers. The artistry of key figures like Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, Ellen Von Unwerth and Helmut Newton contributed to the stratospheric rise of the glamazons while boosting the influence and acclaim of the fashion magazine. In this clip, we go to Monte Carlo, to the set of Cindy’s shoot for the November 1991 issue of American Vogue. Also on hand are photographer Helmut Newton and (then) creative director Andre Leon Talley. Cindy is in full high-fashion mode: Her hair is enormous, her body is brolic and she never once cracks a smile. She is there to work and shoot beautiful, hypersexualized photographs in Newton’s classic “King of Kink” style. “I wanted to do Helmut Newton photographs,” Cindy says. “I didn’t want him to photograph me looking like the Madonna. Not Madonna. The Madonna. Because he’s one of the few people who can get away with it and it doesn’t look raunchy.”
Cindy quickly sheds her all-American innocence. In one shot, she lies on the stage of a ballroom in a white bathing suit, twisting her body towards a blindfolded orchestra made up of old men in tuxedos. According to an interview with Newton, the image was designed to recreate a “chambre separée, when elegant people used to have private, elegant orgies.”
Another scene involves Cindy arching her back and scowling from a sweltering construction site, while hard-hatted crew dudes crane their necks to catch a glimpse. Yet another set-up has Cindy walk across a stone plaza in heels and a black bathing suit, hands outstretched against a cloudless blue sky, trailing a black veil. “[It’s a] photograph of Cindy with the swimsuit,” says Talley (who’s wearing an outfit befitting the glitzy principality: seersucker suit, sunglasses, a yellow straw cap and a matching neckerchief). “Then, suddenly, we put a tulle veil over it from Chanel and see her, like, maybe there is a sort of cinematic, theatrical glamour.” As with all Newton shoots, the magic is in the details. The added wisp of fabric creates a Felliniesque, 1960s European bombshell vibe, transforming our normally affable host.
If you’re familiar with Newton’s work but not the man, it’s surprising how unassuming he appears. He has a thing for loud, printed shirts. He wears a Hawaiian short sleeve one day and a shirt with an all-over print of small white dogs on another. But he has a decisive, Teutonic air when he shoots. He knows exactly how Cindy should “undulate” under the veil, and advises her on her form during the orchestra scene so as to keep the shot within the realm of “American decency.”
Watching Newton work is a revelation and a treat. It’s a lovely, rare opportunity to hear the photographer talk about himself instead of being studied and discussed. “I think that the only thing I’ve brought to fashion photography was a certain kind of sexuality,” he says. And referring back to Cindy’s comment about how Newton can shoot aggressive sex without tawdriness, the photographer attributes it to his palette. “Everything looks wonderful in black and white,” he says. “It is so pure, especially when it comes to photographing very daring, sexual images. I think that, in color, it becomes questionable.”
This segment again shows off Cindy’s range, despite her coloring, she submits to a quintessentially Newtonian aesthetic. Newton liked to take pictures of similar subjects and is most famous for his admiration of blondes. Writer Anthony Lane described Newton’s favorite sorts in The New Yorker (upon the release of Newton’s biography in September 2003) as “strapping Prussian nudes, their marble-hard limbs girt in sheer stockings and the pelts of severely endangered species…” Or else “glaciers with breasts.” As fashion fans will remember, this meant lots of pictures with six-foot model/ice queen Nadja Auermann. “Helmut was very clear that he liked a big girl and blonde girl, in an impeccable suit and high heels,” said Anna Wintour, in the 2004 Newton obituary that ran in the New York Times. "He would take that girl and put her in some wicked or naughty situation, kissing another woman or in handcuffs." Helmut Newton died in a car crash in Hollywood when he collided into a wall at the Chateau Marmont. He was 83.
+ WATCH HELMUT NEWTON AND CINDY CRAWFORD IN MONTE CARLO
DEMYSTIFYING FASHION: CALVIN KLEIN'S MILLION-DOLLAR DENIM CAMPAIGN
Designer Calvin Klein on his ad campaign with model Carré Otis in 1991.
Fashion advertising in the ’90s was exciting. You had the minimalist A Line ads from Anne Klein; the jarring, incendiary ads from Benetton; and the racially diverse ads from ESPRIT. Calvin Klein had been making headlines for his ad campaigns for decades, and would continue to do so in the decades following. For the 1991 October issue of Vanity Fair, Calvin Klein created an outrageously expensive ad campaign to promote his eponymous jeans line.
The series, shot by Bruce Weber, features a badass, curly-haired, full-lipped Carré Otis straddling a massive motorcycle on the streets of San Francisco. The camera shadows her day as the frontwoman of a fictional rock ’n roll band. We see Otis singing, stage-diving, and making out; Klein says he loved the images so much that, after selecting his favorites to use, he discovered that he had chosen 140 of them. The ad ran as a 116-page supplement to Vanity Fair, printed on the same paper stock as the magazine. Industry insiders at the time speculated that the ostentatious ad buy set the brand back $1 million.
+ WATCH CALVIN KLEIN ADVERTISING
DEMYSTIFYING FASHION: NAOMI WOLF AND CAMILLE PAGLIA ON EATING DISORDERS
Naomi Wolf, author of 'The Beauty Myth,' participates in a discourse on beauty and feminism in 1991.
While it would be easy to dismiss this as lip service to combat criticism of our role in promoting unhealthy body images, the footage is important when you consider MTV’s largely teenage viewership and how this segment predates an honest dialogue of airbrushing and Photoshop within the industry. We could not clear the clip due to issues with images and music, but we’ve transcribed quotes from Wolf and Paglia to highlight their stances on anorexia and fashion magazines as well as comments from Naomi Campbell and Jane Pratt. It’s an interesting moment when you consider the current criticism of pro-ana sites and the crackdown on “thinspo” on social networks like Tumblr and Pinterest. And it's also notable how most of these women focus on eating disorders as a white epidemic.
Naomi Wolf, Author of 'The Beauty Myth':
“Right now, a lot of people are telling women lies about what beauty is. The ideal we see in fashion magazines, for example: thin, white, young, surgically implanted. When you follow the advice of women's magazines, and follow one of these of these typical diets, it changes your brain chemistry and it addicts you, both physically and psychologically, to anorexia or bulimia.”
Camille Paglia, Professor of Humanities, University of the Arts, Philadelphia:
“Anorexia is the product of a particular kind of pushy, ambitious, socially upwardly mobile white family life. This idea of blaming it on the media is a sickness. It has got to stop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing beauty. The pursuit of beauty is a noble human aim.”
“As soon as women start reaching for power, there’s been a backlash. That’s the beauty myth. The beauty myth put in the place of happy housewife, this Vogue model, [which] says that no matter how successful you are in any aspect of your life, you have to look like that or you’re worthless.”
“The last ten years, career women have taken back the paraphernalia, the regalia, the armament of female sexuality. And we feel more powerful with it.”
“We, as models, use beauty when we climb. We start off in the beginning, and we get more successful or [we] don’t. And that’s, in a sense, using beauty to gain more power in a certain way.”