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Helmut Newton 1920-2004

Related: fashion photography - Germany

White Women (1992) - Helmut Newton
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Key works: Model Lisa Taylor in her Calvin Klein dress 'cruising' a man. [image link] - They are coming - Vogue France, Paris 1981 [image link]

"To radical feminists, Newton is the antichrist. This is the man who photographed a woman on all fours with a saddle on her back, and another sitting on her underwear or an unmade bed, with a gun in her mouth ... Newton's vision is fuelled by sex, status, power and, above all, voyeurism ... Small wonder, then, that much of the photographer's most successful imagery has become far more famous than the garments he has chosen to photograph ... Newton's influence is everywhere ... In the Sixties and Seventies, Newton's decadent vision may have been labelled 'porno chic,' but today the rest of the world has finally caught up with him and it's just plain chic. There is barely a stylist, photographer or designer working in fashion today who can fail to acknowledge Newton as an influence ... Helmut Newton was born to middle-class Jewish parrents in Weimar Berlin in 1920, and the decadent spirit of that place at that time is imprinted on his work ... Accusations of misogyny are still constantly made against Newton's work." [FRNKEL, S., 5-9-01]


Helmut Newton, born Helmut Neustädter (October 31, 1920 - January 23, 2004) was a well known fashion photographer. He was especially famous for his many nude studies of women.

He was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Jewish garment factory owner. His mother was American. He attended the Werner von Trotschke Gymnasium and the American School in Berlin. Interested in photography from a young age, he worked for the German photographer Else Simon, known as Yva. He left Germany in 1938 and worked briefly in Singapore as a photographer for the Straits Times. He served with the Australian Army during World War II, from 1940 to 1945, working in logistics.

In 1948 he married the Australian actress June Brunell. Postwar he worked as a freelance photographer, producing fashion shoots and work for magazines such as Playboy. From the late 1950s he concentrated on fashion photography.

He settled in Paris in 1961 and began extensive work as a fashion photographer. His works appeared in magazines including, most significantly, French Vogue. He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylised scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts. A heart attack in 1970 slowed his output somewhat but he extended his work and his notoriety/fame greatly increased, notably with his 1980 "Big Nudes" series which marked the pinnacle of his erotic-urban style, underpinned with excellent technical skills. He also worked in portraiture and more fantastical studies.

In October 2003 he donated an extensive photo collection to the foundation Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin. It will be shown in the former art library near Berlin-Zoo station. Newton loved his hometown Berlin.

Lately he lived in Monte Carlo and Los Angeles. He died in a car crash in Hollywood, California when his car hit a wall in the driveway of the famous Chateau Marmont, the hotel on Sunset Boulevard which had for several years served as his residence whenever he was in southern California. His ashes are buried in the Städtischen Friedhof III, Berlin-Schöneberg, Stubenrauchstraße 43-45. Schöneberg in Berlin, Germany. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmut_Newton [Apr 2005]


Helmut Newton, born October 31, 1920, died January 24, 2004, is one of my favourite fashion photographers who, when working for Vogue and such in the 60's and 70's - as his another colleague Guy Bourdin did - combined in his images striking erotic and S&M themes, and has been widely imitated ever since.

Story of Ohh

Another series of images, American Vogue's "Story of Ohh" featuring a man, two girls and a dog, contains an epoch-making shot of the model Lisa Taylor, wearing a Calvin Klein dress and eyeing a shirtless man with frank lust. Mr. Newton is delighted by the memory of how many readers, disgusted by the fully clothed but suggestive ménage unfolding on Vogue's pages, canceled their subscriptions. --http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/yulelog/discuss/msgReader$554 [Aug 2004]

Helmut Newton's Story of Ohh shows Lisa Taylor lounging on a sofa legs wide apart, gazing hungrly at a half-naked man. --http://www.guybourdin.fsnet.co.uk/other_pages/reviews.html [Aug 2004]


  1. Helmut Newton's SUMO - Helmut Newton, June Newton (Editor) [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Bringing an entirely new slant to the concept of the coffee-table book, SUMO is a suitably enormous homage to 79-year-old Helmut Newton, the master of subversive and erotic photography. "I wanted to build a monument to the most important photographer of the 20th century," comments Benedikt Taschen, the publisher behind SUMO. He delivers. Weighing over 65 pounds, measuring more than two feet long, and breaking any previous size record in book publishing, SUMO contains 480 pages of every aspect of Newton's outstanding career in photography. Each copy of the book is bound by hand and numbered and signed by the artist. In order to showcase this colossus, the book is packaged with its own stand designed by Philippe Starck.

    This outsized volume contains the body of Newton's controversial yet iconographic work, documenting fashion, fetishism, and above all an overriding obsession with voyeurism that can make the viewer feel complicit or uneasy by turns. Newton himself describes SUMO as "terrifying and outrageous. I don't even look at it as a book.... I look at it as an object." --Catherine Taylor, Amazon.co.uk

  2. Autobiography (2003) - Helmut Newton [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Famous for his decadent photography, Newton shares his life and times in a tell-all that reveals as much about his narcissism as his artistry. A German Jew whose family was ruined by the Nazis, Newton, born in 1920, has lived an exciting and terrifying life. The product of a privileged Berlin childhood, he bought his first camera at 12 and was hooked. Apprenticed to Yva, a noted fashion photographer, Helmut learned his craft, all the while dreaming of becoming a photographer for Vogue. But once the Nuremberg Laws were passed, coupled with the horrors of Kristallnacht, his family fled. Young Helmut went to Singapore; his parents sailed to South America. This rupture forced him into an independent, nomadic existence that continued throughout his life. A handsome, dashing figure, he is honest about his tenure as a gigolo, his time in an Australian prison camp (holding an expired German passport meant he was considered an enemy alien), his years in the Australian army and his ongoing passion for photography. Proposing to his wife, June, he warned her: "My work will always come first." His big break came in 1961, when he joined French Vogue. Newton was renowned for his erotic, risqu‚ shots of models and nudes recalling the racy cabarets of his youth. In 1976, he published White Women, a controversial book that established him as the agent provocateur of fashion photography. So distinct were Newton's images, they became a Vogue hallmark. His autobiography recounts everything from his numerous affairs to his artistic inspirations. It is a remarkably candid and revealing look at the man behind the camera.

  3. White Women - Helmut Newton [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    White Women, Helmut Newton's legendary first work, appeared more than twenty years ago. With its superior mixture of aesthetics, technical perfection and bourgeois decadence it has lost nothing of its potency and attractiveness. Newton's work encompasses a wealth of themes, also embodying facets of the mass-media world of glamour, masquerade and show. Using subtle, yet striking images--like those of Paloma Picasso, Veruschka, Elsa Peretti, Karl Lagerfeld, David Hockney, and Charlotte Rampling--Newton embraces the delicate, natural beauty of the naked female body. White Women is a masterpiece of erotic visual literature. --via Amazon.com

  4. Helmut Newton: Postcard Book - Helmut Newton [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Born in Berlin in 1920, Helmut Newton achieved international fame in the 1970s while principally working for French "Vogue". This postcard book contains some of his work, reflecting the photographer's emphasis on images of powerful, sexually predatory women.

    The German-born photographer has put all flesh behind him. No more shots of predatory naked women wearing chains and dog collars. No Amazonian voyeurs or sadomasochistic high-society belles. Those decadent scenarios with million-dollar models posing as midgets and wearing saddles -- images found in books like "Private Property" (Schirmer's Visual Library/Norton, 1990) and his most recent book, "Helmut Newton Illustrated #4" (Schirmer-Mosel, 1995), are a thing of the past. He has even bid adieu to his hard-edged fashion shots. In the new buttoned-up dispensation, the phrase "very Helmut Newton" will no longer be accompanied by knowing leers.
    What was behind his decision? Not protests by feminists, or age, or mellowness, Newton says. It was just too much skin.
    "It is like when I got tired of doing the bondage-dominated fashion shots in the early 1980s," he says. "I just couldn't bring anything new or fresh to the subject any more." --Joel Stratte-McClure, Salon 07

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