MARIO MAKES IT BIG: Mario Testino’s “Undressed” is the Helmut Newton Foundation’s largest-scale show to date. In this exhibit of 50 published and private photographs of men and women often wearing nothing more than their tattoos, Testino blew up his images to completely fill the walls in three halls of Berlin’s graciously proportioned Museum of Photography.
Looming over 10 feet from the ceiling to the walls’ lower wood moldings, and spanning sometimes 23 feet in width, this site-specific installation conceived for the Helmut Newton Foundation offers a spectacular yet also intimate view. As the photographer noted prior to the show’s opening June 2, the enormous size and full bleed from corner to corner means there are no distractions. The viewer is almost compelled to immerse his or herself in the images, turning from “a voyeur into a participant. We’re in a moment when people want to interact with what they see, and not just look. They want to be part of it, so who knows? Maybe people will now go home and take photos of each other like this.”
That means equal undressing rights for all, with full frontals, male and female, to enticing back views, moments of amorous play and erotic accessorizing to more abstract body landscapes. And sex? It’s a prevailing interest Testino said he shares with Helmut Newton, an inspiration for Testino “since Mario Testino became Mario Testino. It took a long time to become who I am,” he commented. “But Helmut was born on the 31st of October and I on the 30th, which means we’re both Scorpios with sex in our heads all the time, and also an untiring energy to work all the time.”
The book “Mario Testino Undressed,” published by Taschen in English, French and German, accompanies the exhibit, which in turn runs simultaneously with Helmut Newton “Unseen” and Jean Pigozzi “Pool Party” at the Helmut Newton Foundation through Nov. 19.
Pigozzi, known for his Leica VIP snapshots, was on hand in Berlin with poolside photos of friends like Helmut and June Newton, Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, Giovanni Agnelli and many other notables, including Testino, who have flocked to his house in Cap d’Antibes over the years. Testino was there to work, “and it’s really where I began to be what I am, so I sort of owe you a percentage of what I earned,” he told Pigozzi. “But that’s not going to happen,” he quickly added. Pigozzi, who in Berlin proclaimed himself the inventor of the selfie in 1972 when he snapped himself with Faye Dunaway, was notably unfazed.
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