Helmut Newton is regarded as one the great masters of late twentieth century photography. Born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1920, he started his apprenticeship at the age of sixteen under renowned German fashion photographer ‘Yva’. His training was brought to a halt when he fled Nazi Germany, arriving in Australia in 1940.
Though he opened a small photo studio in Melbourne, it wasn’t until his move to Paris in the 60’s that his career as a fashion photographer truly took off. His images started gracing the pages of the best fashion magazines in Europe before Newton crossed the Atlantic in the early 70’s, where he would ultimately be dubbed the ‘King of Kink’ by Time Magazine.
Whilst his provocative black-and-white images, Newton’s work sought to challenge society’s perception of female desire and sexuality through voyeurism, lesbianism and fetishism. With the encouragement of his wife and lifetime collaborator June, he combined the female nude with decadence and frivolity to highlight sex as a symbol of strength and power.
Throughout his career Newton contributed to leading magazine titles including Vogue, Playboy, Queen, Nova, Marie-Claire, and Elle, seeking to capture the flamboyant life of the rich and famous. His Polaroids were originally used as studies for an official shoot or resulting print. However, Newton would go on to sign each Polaroid as a unique work of art and in some cases the Polaroids remain the only examples of pictures from their sittings.
Newton’s vision ultimately changed the concept behind fashion photography, with Anna Wintour equally describing his work as “Synonymous with Vogue at its most glamorous and mythic.” His style is still much admired today and continues to influence future generations of contemporary fashion and portrait photographers.
In 2003, one year before his death, the photographer established the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin dedicated to the preservation and recontextualization of his and June Newton’s photographic work.
Helmut Newton is the subject of a major exhibition titled “Fact & Fiction” in A Coruña, Spain, sponsored by Marta Ortega Pérez, chairperson of Spanish fast fashion giant Inditex and co-curated by Hamilton’s gallery owner Tim Jefferies, photography expert Philippe Garner and Helmut Newton’s Foundation director Matthias Harder. Other recent exhibitions includ National Portrait Gallery in London, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and Palazzo Reale in Milan (2023).