Helmut Newton - Photo of the artist - Image © Helmut Newton Estate women june

Helmut Newton/ Helmut Neustädter

Germany 1920 - 2004

Photography

www.helmutnewton.com

Helmut Newton
Helmut Neustädter
Male
Germany
1920

Although he is often considered to be one of the most notorious photographers of the 20th century, there’s no denying that Helmut Newton is an extremely influential artist whose works dictated the course of fashion photography to where the genre is today. The King of Kink made his name shooting models in stunning, often provocative black-and-white photos that eventually became the author’s trademark alongside his sharp tongue – for example, Helmut once stated that all photographers were voyeurs and that every single one of them negated that fact is a genuine idiot[1]. Newton was a highly prolific artist who worked for a very long time, eventually proving himself to be one of the main creative pillars behind the Vogue magazine and other publications, as well as ensuring that his work was widely imitated by all those aspiring to became as successful as he was. Although he collaborated with many colleagues and worked with a lot of assistance that ultimately became great artists in their own right, Helmut had a special artistic relationship with his wife as he was married to a fellow photographer Alice Springs[2].

June springs in New York and Australia give photographers a contact with free photo books
Helmut Newton – Saddle I, from the Sleepless Nights series, Paris, 1976

Escaping the Nazi Terror

Born in the year of 1920 as Helmut Neustädter, this artist grew up as a German Jew and had a rather privileged childhood in Berlin due to his family’s wealth[3]. A son of the factory owner, Helmut received his first camera at the age of 12 and was rarely caught without it in his hands ever since, often neglecting his studies in school in order to pursue photography. It is reputed that Newton first became fascinated with the female nude as a photographic subject as a teenager while working as an apprentice to a certain theater photographer Yva in Berlin. He fled increasing Nazi oppression in Germany in 1938, shortly after a massive, coordinated attack on Jews known as Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass).

Helmut Newton - Here They Come II, Paris from the series Big Nudes, 1981 via vogue.com
Helmut Newton – Here They Come II, Paris from the series Big Nudes, 1981 – Image via vogue.com

A New Start

After that night, young Helmut went to Singapore while his parents sailed to South America. He worked in Singapore and Australia during World War II, serving in the Australian army for several years. When the war ended, the photographer became an Australian citizen and changed his name to Newton in the year of 1946. He was finally able to pursue an artistic career in photography as the events of World War II prevented him from doing anything long term in that regard. Newton later opened up a photography studio and moved to Europe in the 1950s, seeking better circumstances for his art.

Initially, Newton became fascinated with the female nude while working as an apprentice to a photographer Yva – this theme will soon become the young artist’s focal creative point

Photos of women were a favorite theme for Newton
Helmut Newton – Big Nude V, Paris, 1980 (Left) / Big Nude XV, Nice, 1993 (Right)

Newton’s Photography

From the moment he arrived at the Old Continent, Helmut realized that the decision to move here was a great one. He was a young, wealthy artist whose ambition was only rivaled with an inspiring story of how he survived and fought through the war that was still very much echoing throughout Europe. In order to be as close to the avant-garde circles as possible, Newton moved to the City of Light. There, it took him no time to began working for French Vogue and other publications during the 1950s and 1960s as his reputation grew, traveling frequently throughout the world on assignments. He was hired by Australian Vogue in the 1950s, by British Vogue in 1957 and by French Vogue in 1961. Throughout the years, Newton contributed to magazines such as Playboy, Queen, Nova, Marie-Claire, Elle and the American, Italian, and German editions of Vogue. All in all, the name of Helmut Newton became a fashion sensation and was on everyone’s lips, topping the wishing lists of many famous companies that were pursuing his services[4].

Helmut Newton – Charlotte Rampling, Vogue 1976 – Image via vogue.com

Dramatic, Beautiful and Perverted

Helmut soon became renowned for his ability to visually provoke with style as his nudes were managing to be simultaneously elegant and highly erotic. He was also able to insert narratives into his pieces although the themes in which he dabbled required nothing of the sort – Newton was doing this very subtly and boldly, insisting that his artworks were more than simple fashion photos. And they were. Unfortunately, a heart attack in the year of 1970 reduced Newton’s output quite a bit, but his profile continued to increase, especially with his 1980 Big Nudes series, which marked the pinnacle of his erotic-urban style, underpinned with excellent technical skills. Newton shot a number of pictorials for Playboy[5] that are till deemed as the magazine’s greatest, including the images of Nastassja Kinski and Kristine DeBell.

As far as Helmut Newton was concerned, being a good photographer was all about being provocative, unique and capable of creating a surprising narrative

New June springs photos of free Alice and her own photo sessions and photo routines
Helmut Newton – Rue Aubriot, for French Vogue, Paris, 1975 (Left) / Woman into Man, lighting a cigarette, for Vogue, 1979 (Right)

Later Life

Besides the fashion pieces, Newton also worked in portraiture[6] and more fantastical studies in his free time. However, his technique was always the focal point, always the core of the photo. He was known for the dramatic lighting and the unconventional poses of his models in his photographs. Newton’s work has often been characterized as obsessive and subversive, incorporating themes of sadomasochism, prostitution, violence and a persistently-overt sexuality into the narratives of his images. Stylistically, it can be said that his black-and-white pictures combine the impression of 1930s noir photojournalism with aspects of New Wave movies, all underlined by a strong erotic note. Over the course of years, his work centered mainly on fashion, nudes and portraits, with the three categories often mixing with each other. He increasingly focused more on these images rather than fashion photography in the 1980s, emphasizing the aggressive and provocative in his works.

Helmut Newton – Madonna, 1991 – Image via pinterest.com

Awards of Helmut Newton

It should be noted that Newton is a recipient of the Best Photography Award from the Art Directors Club in Tokyo, Japan in 1977, an award recipient of the American Institute of Graphic Arts Award and in 1978 he received an award for the Gold Medal from the Art Directors Club in Germany. Among other honors, Newton received the German Kodak Award for Photographic Books, a Life Legend Award from Life magazine and an award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts for his photographs. Helmut Newton continued to travel later in life, dividing his time between his homes in Monte Carlo and Los Angeles. Just as the case was way back when he was a teenager, he never dropped the camera from his hands[7]. Shortly before his death, the artist had established the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin and also donated around one thousand of his works to his native city. He died in the year of 2004 in a car crash in Los Angeles, at the age of 84.

Here’s a short documentary video that provides us with a small glimpse at the way Helmut Newton worked, thought and saw his art

An Assembly of Great Artistic Features

Although he was a part of a very superficial artistic community, Helmut Newton was renowned for his ability and desire to insert unexpected contexts into his work. Newton is also credited with imbuing fashion photography with narrative depth that only further enhanced his stylized, dreamlike scenes. His work was and still is renowned for an entire assembly line of bold creative decisions that ultimately paid off extremely well for this author. Newton’s radiant black-and-white images of elegant, powerful and sensual women, shot in controversial scenarios, daring lighting and striking compositions remain as some of the greatest photographies ever taken. Now, more than a decade after his death, the artist’s reputation hasn’t faded at all as the rather questionable argument against his lasting influence on high-fashion photography ended a long time ago. The iconic Helmut Newton continues to live on through his immortal images of models wearing little but high heels and cold glares – images that even now have the power to shock and amaze.

References:

  1. Marquet, F., Newton, H., Newton, J., Helmut Newton: Work, Taschen, 2000
  2. Springs, A., Newton, J., Helmut Newton and Alice Springs: Us and Them, Scalo Publishers, 1999
  3. Newton, H., Helmut Newton 1920-2004, Schoenhofs Foreign Books, 2012
  4. Newton, H., Helmut Newton: Polaroids, Taschen; Mul edition, 2015
  5. Abish, W., Newton, H., Cole, G., Playboy: Helmut Newton, Chronicle Books; First Edition, 2005
  6. Squires, C., Newton,. H., Helmut Newton Portraits, Pantheon Books, NY; 1st American Edition, 1987
  7. Felix, Z., Newton, H., Best of Helmut Newton, 1st Thunder’s Mouth Press edition, 1996

Featured image: Helmut Newton – Photo of the artist – Image © Helmut Newton Estate
All images © Helmut Newton Estate.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Yellow PressHelmut Newton Foundation, BerlinSolo
2016A RetrospectiveFoam Fotografiemuseum AmsterdamSolo
2016Pages from the GlossiesHelmut Newton Foundation, BerlinSolo
2015The RecollectionPatricia Conde Galería, MexicoSolo
2015Permanent Loan Selection IIHelmut Newton Foundation, BerlinSolo
2015Fraulein…Kicken BerlinSolo
2015Permanent Loan SelectionHelmut Newton Foundation, BerlinSolo
2013Some like it nudeLudwig Museum im DeutschherrenhausSolo
2013Paris-BerlinHelmut Newton Foundation, BerlinSolo
2013World Without Men / Archives de NuitHelmut Newton Foundation, BerlinSolo
2013Helmut NewtonFotografiska Museum, StockholmSolo
2013White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big NudesThe Annenberg Space for Photography, Los AngelesSolo
2013White Women / Sleepless Nights / Big NudesPalazzo delle Esposizioni, RomeSolo
2012Helmut Newtonaleries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, FranceSolo
2012Private PropertyGalerie Sho Contemporary Art, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2011Helmut Newton: White Women - Sleepless Nights - Big NudesMuseum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, USAGroup
2011Selected WorksHamiltons Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2009A Gun for HireFundación Caixa Galicia, La Coruña, Spain Group
2007Wanted, Helmut NewtonLarry Clark, Ralph Gibson at the Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin, GermanySolo
2007Helmut Newton XLHamiltons Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
2006Men, War & Peace Newton, Nachtwey, LaChapelle, Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin, GermanySolo
2006Yellow Press / Playboy Projections Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin, GermanySolo
2006Sex & Landscapes Palazzo Reale, Milan, ItalySolo
2005A Gun for HireHelmut Newton Foundation, Berlin, Germany Solo
2005Sex & LandscapesKunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, GermanySolo
2005A Gun for HireGrimaldi Forum, MonacoSolo
2004Helmut NewtonGagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, USASolo
2004Sex & Landscapes / Yellow PressRetretti Art Centre, Helsinki, FinlandSolo
2003Helmut Newton: Genuine EyesGallery Sho Contemporary Art, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2003Sex & Landscapes,Gallery Joshua Mann Pailet, New Orleans, USASolo
2002Sex & LandscapesRupertinum Museum, Salzburg, Austria Solo
2002Yellow Presse Pury & Luxembourg, Zurich, Switzerland Solo
2001Helmut Newton WorkBarbican Centre, London, EnglandSolo
2001Sex & Landscapesde Pury & Luxembourg, Zurich, Switzerland Solo
2000Helmut Newton WorkNeue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany Solo
2000Helmut Newton Work Museum of Modern Art, Sao Paulo, BrazilSolo
1999Us and Them Helmut Newton & Alice Springs. 50 Years together – Personal Photographs, Center for Contemporary Art, Stockholm, SwedenSolo
1999Architecture & PornographieGastello die Rivoli, Turin, Italy Solo
1998Visa pour l’image 67 new portraitsPerpignan, FranceSolo
1997Helmut Newton PhotographienCamera Work Gallery, Berlin, GermanySolo
1996Helmut Newton: PhotographyNavio Museum, JapanSolo
1995Helmut Newton: PhotographyOdakyu Museum, Tokyo, Japan Solo
1995Archives de NuitGalerie Pierre Nouvion, Monte-Carlo, Monaco Solo
1994Helmut Newton aus dem photographischen WerkFotomuseum, Winterthur, SwitzerlandSolo
1993Helmut Newton aus dem photographischen WerkDeichtorhallen Hamburg, GermanySolo