top of page

Creative Research Journal

This is my Creative Research Journal for my MA Photography Course

PHO710 : Methods and Meaning

Investigate one or two of the practitioners discussed in the Methods and Meaning presentation, or any other practitioners or bodies of work you might have an interest in. Identify their methodologies: you may wish to think about their research strategies, technical considerations, and their presentation choices. Where apparent, identify the photographer’s intentions and/or the conceptual underpinning of the work.

I chose to investigate the portrait photographer Helmut Newton. As a German of Jewish parentage[1], he fled Berlin in 1938, intending to go to China. He stopped off in Singapore, and stayed there, working as a press photographer for a short time. Unemployed, he indulged in a promiscuous lifestyle, declaring “I realised how far I was from the goal I'd set myself of becoming a Vogue photographer. Instead, I'd become a trained fucker”[2]. This in fact was a pointer to how his photographic work would evolve and develop, becoming known as the ’King of Kink’. He did in fact become a photographer for Vogue, first in Australia, then in Britain. Again, however, this phase of his career was short lived, and he left British Vogue, declaring that he found it “boring”.

He eventually landed in Paris, where he found commercial success that permitted him to develop his idea of photography. He stated, “My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and entertain”[3], and he often  eschewed studios as “a woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room”[4].


In ‘self-portrait with wife and models’, we can see how

Newton has used an unusual view of a photographic

studio setting with his nude models to introduce a

sense of everyday normality into a portrait that is

essentially an erotic scene. By including his wife

looking somewhat bored; one naked model looking very

confident in her brazen full-frontal nudity, and ‘owning’

the room; with a second nude model slightly off camera

but also looking relaxed and unintimidated in her pose,

and himself small in the background, hunched over his

camera, he is showing the women as in control.

“My women are always victorious”, he declared.


In the image, we can see the signs of everyday life; an

'open door, a car park full of cars, clothes hung up, a

discarded robe at the foot of the main model. This is

Newton’s means of communicating that he is shooting

on his own terms, not the expectation of classical

portrait photographers, dismissing the ‘white paper’

studios of his contemporaries.

In the image I have chosen from my own work, we see a young lady standing in front of a mirror, but with her back to the mirror. The young lady, ‘Emma’, is a hobbyist model who enjoys modelling as a vehicle to promote her mental health wellbeing, as she suffers from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. In the studio she comes across as confident and determined, so I wanted to capture some of her message in the image by using some of Newton’s techniques.


Shooting in mono, we see pallets in the background,

representing a non -studio shoot; work, normality.

We see ‘Emma’ as a strong character, turning her back

on her troubles; the Tommy Gun symbolises her anger

at some of the things that have happened in her life,

anger that she couldn’t prevent or control them, that

she wasn’t ‘there’ for certain people, that some people

have let her down. Her gaze at the camera is defiant

and powerful, and in the moment, she is in control.

The woman is ‘victorious.’













[1] Helmut Newton: The King of Photography - Photogpedia Helmut Newton: The King of Photography - Photogpedia

[2] Exposures | The New Yorker

[3] "My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and e by Karina Reyes (

[4] "My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and e by Karina Reyes (

bottom of page