Brain Pickings

Helmut Newton’s SUMO: An Epic Retrospective

German-American fashion photographer Helmut Newton (1920-2004) is easily among the 20th century’s most prolific and provocative visual creators. His signature erotic black-and-white photos graced the pages of just about every major fashion magazine and style bible of our time. In 1999, Newton and his wife Jane enlisted a team of 50 people — writers, editors, photographers, art directors, designers, book binders — to spend three years capturing Newton’s ambitious body of work in an equally ambitious volume. With 480 pages weighing in at 66 lbs, Helmut Newton’s SUMO — published by Taschen, of course — became a prized collector’s item, was included in the MoMA’s permanent collection, and even earned recognition as ” the biggest, most lavish book production of the 20th century.” The limited edition of 10,000 signed and numbered copies sold out so quickly that it multiplied its value to the eyeball-popping price tag of $150,000 and the copy numbered 1 even broke the record for the most expensive book published in the 20th century, selling for $430,000 at an auction in Berlin in 2000.

Ten years later, Taschen released a “budget” version of the book at the vastly more affordable price of $150 (or, if you get it on Amazon, $94.50.) But don’t be fooled — this new volume is far from a poor man’s version of the original. It features 15 lbs of iconic Helmut Newton photographs, some rare images, and a fascinating making-of booklet that offers a behind-the-scenes peek at what’s easily the most ambitious book production process in the history of photography.

The new edition of SUMO even comes with special stand for proud owners to display the book in their homes — now that’s a homage done right.

Published December 6, 2010




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