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Helmut Newton1920 - 2004

Known as one of the most prominent and leading fashion photographers of the 20th century, Helmut Newton made a remarkable influence in the photography realm. His authentic styles and impeccable meticulousness to details paved the way for his photos to become mainstays in publications such as the Vogue magazine.

Early Life

Helmut Newton, also known as Helmut Neustädter, was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin, Germany on the 31st of October 1920 in a neighborhood called Schoneberg. Newton’s mother, Klara Neustädter, had a previous marriage to a wealthy man, with whom she had a son named Hans. On the other hand, Newton’s father, Max Neustädter, came from an underprivileged family that resided in Silesia. With Max’s marriage to Karla, he took over the buckles and buttons business of the latter’s late husband.

Helmut’s mother would tell him stories about how she met her husband, Max, and how her beautiful legs captured the heart of the poor soldier.

As a widow, Karla was very attractive. Hence, it was not surprising to know that her husband fell in love with her. Helmut’s parents met and fell in love at the outburst of the war against the Russians. Newton was born two months premature; so, he used to be a sickly child. What is more, his mother brought him up on a goat’s milk because of the unavailability of cow’s milk at that time. Nonetheless, Newton claimed that it was the goat’s milk that made him handsome, strong, and healthy.

As a student, Newton attended school in Heinrich-von-Treitschke-Realgymnasium. But he was not an academic achiever. He was rather interested in photography and bathing suits that clung to girl’s bodies.

At twelve, his father brought him a camera. This strengthened his interest for photography even more. Newton perceived the camera as a barrier between him and reality.

Newton Meets Yva

At 15, three things became important for newton – photography, women, and swimming. Reality exploded later on when the Nazis rose to supremacy in Germany. Nevertheless, Newton’s fascination in the government only went as far as his attraction for an Aryan girl who rejected him. In Newton’s autobiography, he considered the Holocaust as a fleeting stumbling block for his great libido and ambition.

At 16, Newton was a drop out. He was expelled from the American School in Berlin due to his bad performance.

Engrossed with photography, Newton decided to take a formal education by becoming an apprenticeship to a renowned photographer in Berlin named Elsie Neulander “Yva” Simon.

His first photos were imitations of various illustrations from fashion magazines. At that time, Newton knew only one thing – he wanted to be a photographer for Vogue.

Following the adoption of the Nuremberg Laws, Newton’s father had to give up his factory. He was detained by the Gestapo in a concentration camp in 1938.

On the other hand, Yva was sent to Auschwitz where she was killed.

The Escape from the Nazis

In 1938, at the height of Nazi’s power, Newton’s parents travelled to South America and arranged their son’s trip to China. Newton was given a passport and escaped the National Socialist threat in Germany on the 5th of December 1938. Together with hundreds of others Jews, Newton embarked the Conte Rosso. Newton traveled to Singapore and stayed there for a while. He worked at Strait Times as a photographer and later as a portrait photographer.

Newton spent the war years in Australia where he became an army from 1942 to 1946.

When he left the army, he went to Melbourne and established his photo studio. It was also in Melbourne where he met his wife, June Brown, an actress whom he married two years later.

Brown was not only a wife to Newton but also a collaborator. Initially, Newton earned his income doing wedding pictures and portraits. Although the income was small, it was sufficient enough to help him get by. When he started working as a catalogue and fashion photographer, his income started to increase gradually.

Newton’s Career as a Photographer

From Australia, Newton went to Paris and then travelled to Los Angeles. Following the Second World War, the economic lives of the people improved. Hence, a lot of them had the capacity to purchase artworks. With his fascinating photos, Newton successfully met the demands of his clients.

In 1953, Newton collaborated with Wolfgang Sievers, his fellow immigrant. The presented an exhibit called New Visions in Photography. The innovative exhibition provided a view of New Objectivity art, a form of movement created to captivate the life and culture of Wiemar, Germany. Through this exhibition, Newton’s profile became more known and he was highly considered and respected as a photo artist.

More opportunities came Newton’s way as he was commissioned to conduct fashion shoots for a Vogue Magazine. The editors were in awe of Newton’s work, thus offering him more work for Vogue based in London.

In 1961, Paris became a home for Newton. He developed art and photo layouts for various magazines including Harper’s Bazaar. His innovative artwork was categorized as controversial and exceedingly erotic. His masterpieces often focused on fetish-oriented subjects. Nonetheless, he gained international recognition for his unique and odd works.

Newton’s Photography Styles and Approaches

Helmut Newton was once quoted saying, "There are two obscenities in photography: the art and good taste." Newton’s photography can be considered powerful, beautiful, controversial, and disturbing. But for some critics, Newton’s style is pornographic, cruel, and misogynistic.

Indeed, the German-born photographer revolutionised the world of photography by incorporating the transgressive and the danger with fetishistic and sexy images.

Newton’s wife played an important role in his career. It was his wife, June Brown, who encouraged him to start taking photos of explicitly sexual images. Fetishism, sado-masochism, lesbianism, and voyeurism were incorporated in Newton’s photography. This caused much outrage to feminist advocates. The black-and-white images, along with features of new wave flicks, mirrored Newton’s directional mastery.

Newton achieved success by challenging the conventions. He developed a hybrid, provocative form of photography that encompassed documentary elements, portrait, fashion, and erotica. These photographs produced a highly conventional elucidation of sophisticated and dissolute ways of living. Newton focused his attention to creating dominant, provocative nudes. He created entertaining, sensual portrait stories for Oui, an American magazine, and he offered his distinctive taste in photography to the development of images used in magazines such as Playboy.

Each photo taken by Newton had a story that went along with it. Some find them ambiguous while others find them sexually charged and violent. Newton’s subjects are tall, blonde models, wearing little clothing or nothing at all, and on their stiletto heels. The photos are shot aesthetically and in intricate technical details. Newton’s photography is more than just erotic and all other negative attachments to it. His photographic works may be unconventional, yet, they are all powerful and elegant.

Now that you have learned about Helmut Newton, please take a moment to look through our exceptional Newton artwork.

These artworks are currently among some of the only Helmut Newton works being offered to collectors across the world. These, and the pieces you find in the Private View section of our site are extremely rare.

We are honoured to present these works to those who appreciate them as much as we do.

Enjoy!