Digital FeaturesA Touch of NewtonYves Kortum
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Yves Kortum


PHOTOGRAPHY Yves Kortum STYLING Christine Eckart HAIR & MAKEUP Nadja Schweitzer and Gaelle Oppermann MODELS Lera Bubleyko @ Iconic Model Management Berlin and Melinda London @ Modelwerk Hamburg ASSISTANCE & VIDEO Alain Bianco CAMERA Leica S (007) with Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 Asph. (CS) and Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 (CS).

Fascinated by strong, self-confident, yet sensual women, Luxembourg photographer Yves Kortum’s series ‘A Touch of Newton’ presents pictures full of cliché-like, dramatically exaggerated femininity. A contemporary encounter with the great master – successfully interpreted by Kortum in his own, unique manner.

S Magazine: You were born in Luxembourg and grew up with a multi-cultural background. Does this influence your photography?
Yves Kortum: Of course, this has always influenced me, because I grew up speaking four languages right from the beginning. But it first really developed during the trips I went on for my clients. It allowed me to be able to communicate quickly and to be inspired by their traditions, films, theatre pieces and so on. I brought something back from every country I visited: that certain attitude of the French, the lack of punctuality of the Italians, the preparation and precision of the Germans… my concepts are mostly based on a diversity of cultural backgrounds. I love history, music, theatre.

Self-confident, strong women with a lot of sex appeal are obviously a theme that is special for you. How do you want to depict women and why? Do you see parallels to Newton or not? How would you describe your style?
I love to photograph strong women, self-confident, independent, decided, seductive, but also sensitive, dramatic. I love drama in the expressions and the poses. I love exaggerated femininity, the clichés.
People often tell me that my pictures have a similarity to those taken by Helmut Newton. Jean Claude Jitrois, whose dresses are also represented in these pictures, worked virtually exclusively with Helmut in the nineties. Nowadays many of his basics are still called Helmut or Newton, like the skirt with the slit, 'la jupe fondue Newton'. In my early days in the nineties, I had the honour of assisting Helmut Newton’s team in southern France a couple of times. Well, I wasn’t exactly the first assistant, but rather the runner: I made coffee, peeled fruit for the models, went to get aspirins… but I was there and I saw what was going on and it was very inspiring. I am, however, the last person who would compare themself to such a great master as Helmut Newton. I have too much respect for him to do that.

You photographed the women for the S Magazine exclusively in black and white. What factors make you decide to work in colour or monochrome?
On the whole it depends on what theatre piece or which film I’ve seen most recently. I love the films from the 1940s to the 1960s, the ‘film noir’. My inspiration also comes mostly from wherever feminine sensitivity, strength and sensuality in anchored in the eternal. For me, photography is like music, the emotions that it gives rise to. I love piano playing, where there are only black or white keys.

You use upright format for most of the series. Why this limitation?
I do very little landscape format in the studio, because, on the whole, I don’t have backgrounds that are wide enough for that. I also don’t like to cut things off, because I love legs above all.

Posing within such a tight framework is not exactly a trivial matter. What kind of characteristics do the models need to have, so that you like to work with them? How strong do you come across to them during a photo shoot?$
The models need to understand photographers, to know what they want; during the photo shoot they need to become one, a team. I prepare a mood/story board for every photo shoot: the whole team and the model gets it beforehand so as to prepare themselves. Before the photo shoot I also always have a briefing to explain to the models what I’m looking for. Most of them then have no problem in making it happen. Details are important. I also always guide the model during the shoot; I approach her and show her other poses and tell her what expressions I’m looking for. We develop together and come up with new ideas. Sometimes something comes along that makes the picture special, it’s chance. It can be many things, like a gust of wind, a stumble, hair that gets stuck on the face, and so on.

The series combines two types of styling. What was it about them that appealed to you and how did they come about? What perspective was used to choose the labels, such as Etienne Jeanson, Jean Claude Jitrois, Christian Louboutin?
I always like to work with these brands; but on the whole, just leather on a model becomes too much for me, so then I try doing something with silk, lace or something softer, so as to break up the styling. But sometimes I don’t; it’s also a question of how the stylist sees it. There are times when we combine things on the day of the photo shoot itself, to see how they work together.

In your opinion, how does one recognise a good magazine series?
The idea, the creativity, the presentation, the realisation, the combinations of the styling, the make-up and the hair styles.

Does the S camera have features that are important to your way of picture taking?
The S is really very, very good for my type of photography. The sharpness of the Leica lenses is unequalled, just like the detail in the lighter or darker tones. Even when it’s very dark, the details of the clothes, the skin and the hair stand out. The transfer from black to white via the grey tones is also very soft. The camera also sits perfectly in your hands.