Sylvie Blum: Natural Beauty

DPP: What do you look for in a model?

Blum: For me, a beautiful model is very natural in her look and in her attitude. I like very athletic women, but it can be the opposite as long as they’re very natural. I like women that show self-confidence. For example, there’s a bald-headed model I work with. For a girl, it’s mentally very tough to shave your head. She’s a very interesting art model. She gets to know the angles I’m looking for and she delivers.

DPP: You worked as a model with Helmut Newton who, like your late husband Guenter Blum, was very inspired by Metropolis. Who are your other inspirations?

Blum: I modeled twice for Helmut in the 1990s. I love his concepts. I remember when I was a teenager, I saw Peter Lindbergh’s pictures where he used the heavy industrial areas of the Ruhr region as backgrounds. I thought it was so different and so cool. Greg Gorman’s work is so clean and graphic. Robert Mapplethorpe’s work shocked me. The first time I saw his work it was in a German publication. It was his "Self-Portrait with Bullwhip." I had never seen a thing like this before. It was so weird and repulsing and at the same time so interesting and original. It was very brave for someone to open themselves up like that to the public. I bought one of his books, and I couldn’t let go of it. There were the Polaroids, the flowers, the sexual scenes, the celebrities, the fashion pictures, until the last image—where he’s already showing signs of his impending death—where he’s holding a stick with a skull. Seeing his whole body of work is so interesting because it’s so pure, rough and beautiful at the same time.
It was very inspirational to me that someone lives his feelings and cures himself through his work.

DPP: It seems like for your images you’re working like Rodin or Camille Claudel worked with clay, molding a model into position.

Blum: Yes, that’s a beautiful image of what I try to do. I exhaust my models. They have a very good workout. I push them to their limits. I know where their limits are and I want to go further. Sometimes when you work with a model for the first time, you have to have a warm-up and shoot a little bit faster so she has the feeling that you like what she’s doing. It’s just a warm-up; then you start pushing her and observing her and directing her. I almost always direct the models into the positions I want them to be in.

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