There's a visual vocabulary that we develop, much the way we learn our native language, organically and unconsciously. You don't develop your verbal vocabulary in a vacuum - you get it from the people around you when you're growing up, even though you're completely unaware of it. Then you reach a curiosity point and if you push yourself past it, you start trying to find new words to expand your vocabulary. The same thing happens with images. You're surrounded by them 24/7/365, and when you see something that resonates with you, that 'punctum' moment that Barthes postulated is in every image, it sticks in your psyche and becomes a part of your visual vocabulary.
Originally Posted by StoneNYC
Stone- I suspect that you saw, earlier on in your life somewhere Helmut Newton images that resonated with you. You may have been completely unaware of them as Helmut Newtons - I think most people have seen some of his work at some point without knowing it, as he was a highly successful fashion/advertising photographer in addition to his nude work. He did a lot of work for Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Playboy, so if you saw any of those magazines, particularly back issues from the 50s to the 80s, you saw his work. Something about it resonated with you and you used it, unconsciously, as a jumping-off point when trying to formulate your own visual vocabulary.