Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. The term synergy comes from the Attic Greek word ‘συνεργία’ (synergia) from synergos, meaning “working together”.
“Some people’s photography is an art. Mine is not. If they happen to be exhibited in a gallery or a museum, that’s fine. But that’s not why I do them. I’m a gun for hire.” – Helmut Newton.
“In the photographs themselves there’s a definite contrast between the figures and the location … ” – Helmut Newton.
Like Bangle at BMW, Newton was a ‘gun for hire’. And, like Bangle, Newton had something to say. Despite Newton’s self-effacing assertion, his photography can clearly be considered to be an art – and, arguably, the expression of a master.
Newton’s fashion photography oeuvre is for his models to be, quite necessarily for him, outside of a studio. This compositional contrast was key on his signature shots on three counts; firstly, the models were intentionally at odds with the location; secondly, Newton used a ‘Dutch angle’ to impart further tension; thirdly, and perhaps, most importantly, he was nakedly encouraging the observer to story-tell.
Of course Newton didn’t see his work as ‘art’. Newton’s “I just take pictures” is probably genuine bafflement on his part. Genuine Masters don’t see themselves.
An easy way to establish this is to look at Wolford’s contemporary picture for this product line.
And to contrast it against Newton’s own interpretation of his brief.
Newton interpreted ‘Synergy’ – using two models. Two models. I can’t over-emphasise this. It’s the most single-most significant aspect of Newton’s masterpiece composition.
Look at their forms. We can see the models in their fullness, and not just their ‘retail legs’. Again, a differentiator.
The location. Newton introduces these models at odds to their setting. Again, I can’t over-emphasise this.
The ‘Dutch angle’. Just look at the horizon. Newton introduces a subtle tension in his picture by angling the sea from left to right. Naturally, this tension was removed from the retail picture.
The story. The rightmost model leans back; a stance giving succor. The leftmost model leans in, needing. Anonymised, they look seawards.
Newton’s picture invites us to story-tell.
Look at the rock behind the models. They reflect, glass-like, the models’ legs. It’s entirely unnecessary, but done. Why?
Now, let’s look at the how the retail image removes Newton’s edgy ‘Dutch angle’.
And this is what it would have looked like with Newton’s ‘Dutch angle’ retained.
We can argue, in recent times, we have not seen such beautiful art expression in an everyday priced retail commodity.
 Wolford, Monaco, 1995 © Helmut Newton Estate / Maconochie Photography.