Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton, born Helmut Neustädter on 31 October 1920, was a German-Australian photographer. He was a "prolific, widely imitated fashion photographer whose provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos were a mainstay of Vogue and other publications". He was born in a Jewish family and attended Heinrich-von-Treitschke-Realgymnasium and also the American School in Berlin. From an early age, he was always interested in photography and at the age of 12, he purchased his very first camera. Starting in 1936, he worked with the German photographer, Elsie Neulander Simon.

The rise of oppressive restriction by Nuremberg laws made it hard for Helmut’s father to work. On November 9, 1938, his family left Germany and fled to South America. When Newton turned 18, he got his passport and left Germany. He boarded a bus at Trieste and together with 200 other people, they escaped the Nazis. Their journey was intended to go to China, but after he arrived in Singapore he stayed there. He started working as a photographer for Straits Times and later as a portrait photographer.

In 1940, Helmut Newton boarded the Queen May and went to Australia on permission of the British authorities since he became their internee. He worked in Northern Victoria as a fruit picker after his internment was over in 1942. Six years later, he married June Browne, an actress who afterwards became an affluent photographer.

Two years prior to his marriage, in 1946 he set up a studio in Melbourne in the trendy Flinders Lane. In the prosperous years after the war, Newton worked on theatre and fashion photography. In 1953, Newton displayed his work in an exhibition along with another photographer, Wolfgang Sievers. The show was called, New Visions in Photography and was held in Collins Street at the Federal Hotel. After this, Henry Talbot became Newton’s partner and the studio of the latter was given a new name – Helmut Newton and Henry Talbot.

In the 1950s, Newton’s fashion photography was gaining fame and due to his mounting reputation, he was given the opportunity to exemplify fashion for Vogue magazine, 1956. In 1957, he went to London because he was offered a one year contract from British Vogue. Meanwhile, Talbot was given full authority to manage the studio business. Newton however did not complete his term at Vogue and left to work for German and French magazines instead. In 1959, he signed a contract with Australian Vogue and went back to Melbourne.

Helmut Newton again changed his work place and in 1961 established a residence in Paris to continue working as a fashion photographer. His photographs were featured significantly in Harper’s Bazaar and French Vogue. His approach could be described as stylized, erotic scenes, sometimes accompanied with fetishism and a division of BDSM called sadomasochistic as subtexts. Unfortunately, in 1970 Newton suffered from a heart attack which in result slowed his tempo to do work as efficiently as before. This however did not stop him from receiving continuous fame. In 1980, he produced a series titled Big Nudes that was his masterpiece of technical skills and erotic style.

Newton created pictorials of Kristine DeBell and Nastassja Kinski for Playboy magazine. Original prints of these were auctioned in 2002 by Bonhams and in 2003 by Christies.

Later in his life, he lived interchangeably in Los Angeles and Monte Carlo. He died in 2004 from a car accident when the car’s speed became uncontrollable and hit driveway of a hotel.

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