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Fashion Photography Lovers Listen Up – A Coruña Needs To Be Next on Your Bucket List

Fashion Photography Lovers Listen Up – A Coruña Needs To Be Next on Your Bucket List

Welcome to The Director’s Cut, an interactive column featuring fashion, beauty and career advice from RGNN Director and Founder, @isabelevabohrer.

Ten thirty-two a.m. at the port, the Puerto de A Coruña, Galicia’s second largest city. Three seagulls were peacefully paddling around in an artificial pool. Another one was perched just next to them, soaking in the Spanish sun on a chalky staircase leading down to said miniature lake. Not a cloud in sight, the light reflecting on the water rendered the staircase so white you could only squint to see it all. Walk around the construction, and it’s a staircase to heaven; the infinity pool merges with the ocean and leads out onto the horizon. The wind was blowing through my hair and even made it look like I had bangs; I have a video to attest to it below.

The staircase to heaven, or the horizon, at the MOP Foundation | Video credit:

A mesmerizing morning, hard to describe in words; it’s the Instagram image that everyone is taking right now at the Marta Ortega Pérez Foundation (MOP Foundation). But it won’t be there for long. And that is precisely the goal; to bring you to A Coruña. The installation is specifically created for the “Helmut Newton: Fact and Fiction” exhibition. The water, the white, quintessential Mediterranean edifice, and the gleaming play of sunlight is thus no surprise; Newton was an eternal summer fan, many of his works featured swimming pools and in his later years, he lived most of the time in Monte Carlo.

In fact, it’s the third time the MOP Foundation is putting on a show that combines ephemeral architecture with the rest of the exhibition space at the port, which preserves its original industrial origins thanks to architect and A Coruña native Elsa Urquijo.  

It all started with Peter Lindbergh, who shot Marta Ortega’s wedding photos. For context, if you’re not familiar with Marta Ortega, she is the daughter of Amancio Ortega, who founded Inditex, the since 2001 publicly traded company that owns Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho, Lefties and more. Marta Ortega herself has been the President of Inditex since April 1, 2022. But the MOP Foundation is firm when it asserts that it is completely independent of Inditex; this is Marta Ortega’s personal project, although one can be sure that her background has opened more than one door to making all of this possible.  

Helmut Newton is the third exhibition at the Marta Ortega Pérez Foundation in A Coruña | Video credit:

Lindbergh, only a few years after his death, was the subject of Ortega’s first exhibition. The black containers, in which Lindbergh’s friends reminisced about him, were a hit; 110,000 visitors flocked to A Coruña to see it from December 2021 to February 2022. It is thus that Marta Ortega decided to create her Foundation. A happy coincidence because just then, the port of A Coruña was being made accessible to the public for the first time. The next exhibition, too, was a success; from November 2022 to May 2023, silver-clad architecture mimicked a New York City disco vibe for the Steven Meisel retrospective.

The MOP Foundation has already received the concession for the port exhibition space for the next six years. Now, it was time for Helmut Newton, specifically, for the most comprehensive retrospective of the fashion photographer to date. “Helmut Newton: Fact and Fiction” for the first time showcases not only his personal collection, but also a series of Polaroids that Newton’s wife June kept at their apartment in Monte Carlo. It’s a story of firsts; the Polaroids open the exhibition inside a silo that has also been opened for exhibition use for the first time.

Inside the silo, which retains its original industrial architecture | Video credit:
The Polaroids, shown for the first time here, were found after Newton’s death by his Foundation | Photo credit:

Inside the next exhibition spaces, you’ll enter the world of Helmut Newton. On view is his original Louis Vuitton briefcase, which Louis Vuitton has attempted to acquire for over 1 million Euros but to no avail; the Helmut Newton Foundation is keeping that one as it is the only object that remains from his early Berlin days. Newton, born Neustädter, -he changed his name when he arrived in Australia,- famously left Germany and his well-off, Jewish family at the outset of World War II, with precisely this briefcase. Props he would keep inside, apart from his cameras, include Barbie dolls, a nipple bra that closely resembles Kim Kardashian’s latest creation for Skims, and a pair of patent leather heels that makes even Christian Louboutin’s 120 mm So Kate heels look like flats. Rosalía came to visit the exhibition a few days before and said that she was once asked to wear almost identical heels for a shoot; they’re so high they’re almost vertical, you’d need to be a professional ballerina to wear them and not fall over.

Helmut Newton’s Louis Vuitton briefcase | Photo credit:
The towering patent leather heels Helmut Newton would bring to shoots as props; his models always wore shoes | Photo credit:

The exhibition is organized chronologically under the motto “Fact and Fiction;” every photo has its own little anecdote, its own facts, and fictions. And here I must give a special thank you to our guide, Tommy, for making these anecdotes come to life. Did you know that Newton used mannequins, seven of them to be exact, to stage difficult shots, such as a model on the verge of falling off of a skyscraper? But not just any mannequins, they were the best of the best from a factory in London, and he had ten interchangeable legs and arms to make everything look as real as possible – and it did.

Fact and fiction – can you tell it’s a mannequin, not a real model? | Photo credit:

That’s not to downplay the big names he worked with in the fashion industry, however. Ever since 1961, when he signed his contract with Vogue in Paris, Newton would change the concept of how women were represented. In complete contrast with his predecessors and contemporaries, speak for example Irving Penn who was all about femininity, with Newton came the porno chic, the powerful woman for whom men were just the decoration in the photo.

Newton’s iconic nudes, three meters high | Photo credit:
“Naomi Campbell,” Cap D’Antibes, 1998, by Helmut Newton | Photo credit:
“Andy Warhol,” Paris, 1974, by Helmut Newton | Photo credit:
“Karl Lagerfeld,” Paris, 1973, by Helmut Newton | Photo credit:

His iconic nudes are on view at the MOP Foundation, as are photos featuring so many other notorious figures in fashion, including Naomi Campbell, Grace Jones, Gianni Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Charlotte Rampling, Raquel Welch, Sigourney Weaver, Karl Lagerfeld, Andy Warhol, Elsa Peretti, and the ultimate power portrait, that of Margaret Thatcher. She well knew Newton’s scandalous reputation; all but New York and Los Angeles based women basically unsubscribed from American Vogue when Newton’s first shots were published. So too did the Director of the Hermès store in Paris suffer a heart attack when he saw the below campaign photos; he was hospitalized for five consecutive days.

The scandalous campaign photo that Newton presented to Hermès, upon which the Director of the store in Paris had a heart attack and was hospitalized for five days | Photo credit:
Margaret Thatcher was photographed by Helmut Newton in 1991 for the National Portrait Gallery | Photo credit:

Yet Thatcher was Newton’s idol. He had requested to photograph her numerous times with no success. In 1991, she finally gave in; it was a commission for the National Portrait Gallery. The sitting was scheduled on a Monday, and Newton brought her a withered flower bouquet, the only one available after the weekend. When he finally explained that all the stores had been closed, she relaxed and even smiled. But no, don’t smile for the portrait! Power doesn’t smile, Newton said.

The stories go on and on, as do Newton’s references not only to his upbringing in military Berlin, but to the masters of art, including Goya, Velázquez, Man Ray, Hitchcock, whose cameos Newton repeatedly imitated, and more.

Helmut Newton’s “Self-portrait with wife and models, Vogue studio” (Paris, 1981) – and a clear reference to Velázquez’s “Meninas”. Where are the Burberry trenches? Newton is wearing one and the rest are hung on a rack. June, his wife, is watching it all on the right | Photo credit:

As we walked through the immaculately presented exhibition, – the photographs almost appear backlit thanks to a precise illumination scheme conceived by Tim Jefferies from the Hamiltons Gallery,– I couldn’t help but notice a group of school children waiting for their turn to enter. The MOP Foundation, in addition to providing scholarships for Final Year university students, works closely with local schools to teach kids how to use a traditional camera. “Where is the screen?” they ask. Fashion and photography can conjure up a convincing fiction. But the fact is, what is the point of all of this if you don’t train the next generation? If you don’t give back and leave a mark that lasts?

Plan your visit

Marta Ortega Pérez Foundation.

  • Muelle de Batería s/n. 15006 A Coruña.
  • Pedestrian entrance through Entrejardines.
  • Monday through Thursday: 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.
  • Fridays: 10.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.
  • Saturdays and Sundays: 11.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.
  • Admission is free.
  • A guided tour (highly recommended) can be booked for 5 Euros per person.
  • “Helmut Newton: Fact and Fiction” will be on view until May 1, 2024. Future exhibitions will be announced to the public shortly.

More information on the official website here.

A Coruña, you’ve been good to us | Video credit:

Thank you to the Marta Ortega Pérez Foundation for inviting us.

Questions or comments? Follow me on IG @isabelevabohrer or TikTok and say hi! See you soon!

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