The photo above is a famous image of German Industrialist, Alfried Krupp, captured by Arnold Newman for Newsweek Magazine.
As a photographer, I have control over what my photographs will look like. I can control the amount of light that enters the camera, where to place that light within my composition, and how it will affect the subject or subjects in the image. I can make the photo look pretty or make it into a dramatic scene. These are the skills I have acquired. A great photographer can reveal the essence of who a person is by using even greater skills, and produce an image that will be seen by the whole world. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the photographer becomes the storyteller.
Arnold Newman was one of those photographers. He was known for his environmental portraits and is credited with making that style of photography a “thing.”
Newman was born in Manhattan in 1918, and grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was the second born of three boys. After graduating from high school he accepted a scholarship to study art at the University of Miami in Coral Gables. Two years later, in 1938, he left school for financial reasons. He moved to Philadelphia where some of his childhood friends were studying photography at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts under the great Alexey Brodovitch. Brodovitch was a Russian-born photographer and graphic designer, who became famous as the art director for Harper’s Bazaar. Arnold hung out with his friends attending the school and Brodovitch’s style would eventually have an influence on Newman’s photographic work.
In 1963, Newsweek Magazine sent Newman to Essen, Germany to photograph industrialist Alfried Krupp. Krupp was a billionaire and one of the world’s top industrialist. He had been a friend of Adolf Hitler’s, and during World War II, Krupp’s factories provided weapons to the Nazis and exploited the men and women in the forced labor program. This forced labor program consisted of millions of prisoners placed in concentration camps, and Krupp insisted on using them. Many of the forced laborers died from horrendous living conditions, malnutrition and general poor treatment. After the war, Krupp was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to serve 12 years in prison; however, after serving only three years, he was pardoned and released.
At first Newman refused to do the assignment, telling Newsweek that he considered Krupp to be a devil. Newsweek agreed with his assessment, but was nevertheless able to convince him to do the assignment.
At the shoot, Krupp and his people were worried about the resulting image when they realized that Newman was Jewish. Newman, for his part, wanted to portray him as Mephistopheles, the demon in German folklore. And here is where the photographer makes his statement and tells his people’s side of the story as has not been told since 1947.
The shoot was done in one of Krupp’s factories. Krupp is seated at a desk with a view of the warehouse and two steel beams in the background framing him from the torso and up. Newman sets up two lights, one on each side of Krupp so that his arms and the sides of his face are lit up, and the middle are is dark. Newman placed his large format camera so that Krupp is seated lower than the lens, so that he must look up slightly. Newman asks him to lean forward. With his elbows rested on the desk, Krupp leans forward so that his chin is resting on his clasped hands in front of him. As he does this, the placement of the light and the shadows change dramatically, darkening Krupp’s eyes, the middle of his forehead and his torso. His face looks elongated from the distortion as the camera is angled downward, and the essence of a dark soul that coldly partnered up with an evil spirit who killed millions of people, including 6 million Jews, was captured by the photographer, a Jew himself, who grew up wanting to be an artist.
As a photographer, I want to be cognizant of how I portray my subjects with the use of proper equipment and appropriate placement of all lighting and light modifiers.
Do I agree with how Newman portrayed Krupp in the above photograph? It doesn’t really matter if I do or not, but I do think this is one of the most awesome, kick-ass portraits ever published!