Helmut Newton (photographer)

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2015-06-26 11:02:15

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Helmut Newton (1920-2004) was a German-Australian photographer.

Life and career

The son of a button factory owner, Newton became interested in photography from a young age. He purchased his first camera when he was twelve, and worked for the German photographer Yva from 1936.

His Jewish family were forced to flee from Germany in 1938. His parents went to South America, and Helmut, at the age of 18, set off for China. He found a home in Singapore, and work as a photographer for the Straits Times and taking portraits independently.

His time in Singapore was short lived, however, as he was interned by British authorities and sent to Australia in 1940, kept under guard for two years. He was released in 1942 and found work briefly as a fruit picker before enlisting with the Australian army.

When the war ended, Helmut became an Australian citizen. He married actress June Browne, who later also became a successful photographer under the name Alice Springs. Newton set up a photography studio, and in the affluent post-war era did very well in fashion and theatre photography.

He soon secured a commission from Australian Vogue magazine, and then won a 12 month contract with British Vogue. He left Australia for London, where he spent the 1950s.

In the 1960s Newton settled in Paris, and his reputation as a fashion photographer grew as his style developed.

One of the most prolific and widely imitated fashion photographers of all time, his provocative and erotically charged black and white images, implementing sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts, were in demand by the top fashion magazines.

As well as his fashion images, his most notable photographs include his nudes.

Celebrated Photographs

  • Self Portrait with Wife and Models (1980)
  • Big Nudes series (1980)
  • Sie Kommon (1981)
  • Woman into Man (1997)

Notable sales

  • Panoramic Nude – The School Teacher (1990) sold for $50,400 at Sotheby’s in October 2006
  • Saddle II, Paris (1976) sold for $70,000 at Phillips de Pury & Company in April 2010
  • Big Nude IX, The Two Violettas (Koletta and Her Dummy) Paris (1991), sold for $90,000 at Phillips de Pury & Company in April 2006
  • Charlotte Rampling at the Hotel Nord Pinus II, Arles (1973), sold for $95,000 in October 2008
  • Big Nude XI, Verina, Nice (1993) sold for £102,000 at Sotheby’s in November 2005
  • Big Nude III, Paris (1980) sold at Christie’s for £192,000 in May 2007 and $482,500 in December 2008
  • Self portrait with models (1980) sold for £217,250 at Christie’s in May 2012
  • Sie Kommon, Paris, Naked and Dressed (1981) sold for $114,000 at Sotheby’s in April 2004, and for $662,500 at Christie’s in December 2008

Did you know?

The Helmut Newton Foundation, overseen by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, was established in 2003. It is dedicated to conserving, protecting and presenting Helmut Newton’s work, alongside that of his wife Alice Springs.

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