Nightlife, 1976.

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Mid-seventies decadence, reminiscent of the provocative Helmut Newton photos shot for the 1978 film The Eyes Of Laura Mars about Faye Dunaway’s edgy fashion photographer stalked by a psycho killer. Here Chris von Wangenheim shot Patti Hansen for Christina Dior’s 1976 “Nightlife Is Your Dior” campaign, juxtaposing elegant couture cocktail gowns with flaming car wrecks, and doing it, well…just ‘cuz.

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How Gauche.

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, American Vogue, March 1985. Photograph by Helmut Newton.

I get a kick out of imagining the stories behind narrative style fashion photography. And oh, what a tale we could come up with for this one, like a still right out of a 1980’s direct-to-video erotic thriller. Here Helmut Newton shoots a bit of upscale haute couture neo-noir for Yves Saint Laurent/Rive Gauche for US Vogue back in 1985. Gun in one hand, phone in the other, but it’s the woman reflected in the round mirror that unnerves me. Something bad just went down, or is about to…

70’s Decadence

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From Vs. magazine’s Fall-Winter 2014/15 issue, an intriguing homage to all that’s decadent in fashion photography – bad boy Helmut Newton, badder-girl Ellen Von Unwerth, and a nod to the 1978 erotic crime thriller Eyes Of Laura Mars (more about that guilty pleasure weird-fest of a flick at thestilettogumshoe.com later…count on it).

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The photo suite’s introductory copy explains: “In the cult movie Eyes Of Laura Mars, Faye Dunaway plays a photographer who can see through the eyes of a killer. Here, our cover girl Uma Thurman – a modern-day Dunaway – embodies the thriller’s title role and pays homage to its seductive 70’s styling and provocative imagery (the movie featured stills by Helmut Newton). Who better to capture this iconic marriage of fashion and film than Newton’s seminal successor, Ellen Von Unwerth?”

Well, I’ve seen Von Unwerth get both saucier and nastier than these, and the staged photo shoots, stills and grisly murders in the 1978 film pushed the limits for the time, presaging a host of disturbing visuals soon to populate countless VHS tapes in the ‘erotic thriller’ craze of the early 80’s. But Von Unwerth and Thurman captured some vintage decadence here, to be sure.

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