The Alice Springs Retrospective at Le Musee Europeene de la Photographie in Le Marais, Paris
24th June - 23rd August
Alice Springs was the pseudonym used by June Newton, the wife of the illustrious Helmut. She was previously known for her black and white photographs, which were well respected in the realms of fashion photography and advertising. However, within the setting of an 18th century mansion in the depths of Le Marais, we are shown a different side to the photographer. More intimate nudes have also been unearthed alongside these iconic photographs of celebrities, fellow artists and her husband. In terms of setting, the Musee Europeenne de la Photographie is so perfectly situated in the heart of Le Marais, it's all too easy to stroll in for a spot of culture. Despite the modern exterior, it's a beautiful building with a spiral staircase sweeping you up through the multiple exhibitions.
Alice takes us to Melrose Avenue to present vignettes of the developing hip hop and punk culture in early 1980s America. Illustrated by the photograph Melrose Avenue, LA. 1984, we're shown the punk scene in motion with a bejeweled provocateur at the helm. The curators take a refreshing, no-frills approach with simple, off-white walls illuminating the photographs. I was rather taken with the serenity, the silence throughout the exhibition, because there's such life in the photographs, it's far more entertaining to imagine the soundtrack to each work. There was no better photograph to capture this notion than Malibu, 1983, which depicts a free-spirited nun dancing next to a near nude hippie in his socks. The pair sway to the contortions of a guitarist with a fabulous afro, playing in their midst.
Upon reflection, her husband Helmut Newton lamented, "I was amazed by the lack of manipulation she employed, by the way she melted into the background and became self effacing." This melting into the background was illustrated by her photograph of Lisa Lyon,Venice, 1981, which swept me back into last years Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective, which was so beguiling. The bodybuilding champion Lisa Lyons was a muse to a series of photographers, because of the androgyny of her physique and the sensuality conjured by her fearless poise.
A resounding theme throughout the retrospective seemed to be that of brotherhood. I like the sense of solidarity in Xavier and Valentin Vallhornat from Madrid, 1989. But, it's the photographs of her most affluent subjects at play, which invite us into a hidden world she occupied. The above Helmut and Bruce Weber, Miami, 1999 illustrates the brotherhood, so treasured by the master of his field.
Alice Springs demonstrates a curiousity for the human condition across the entirety of her oeuvre. For example in Press conference, Moscow, 1989, she turns the camera around and exposes both the perils and joys of journalism as we see some playful characters brightening the boredom of their contemporaries. For it was her ability to cast light upon the life of a photographer, which made her work so intriguing.
Her portrayal of notable women is fascinating. She captures them in moments, when they seem entirely alone and natural. Rather than snapping the glitterati at functions she immerses herself in their day to day lives as seen with the photograph of Audrey Hepburn, London, 1988. This is one of the rare occasions we see her in her older age. Looking elegant as ever, but slightly more vulnerable. Likewise Springs, goes on to shoot Princess Caroline of Monaco, 1986 sprawled across a paisley sofa, which takes her weight, as Springs seems to relieve of her of the sense of prestige, which followed her around.
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Written by Ruby Reed, Contributor to Arteviste.com