Helmut Newton

Born 1920. Died 2004.
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Helmut Newton Biography

Known for his striking, and often provocative images, Helmut Newton was a German-Australian photographer who had a prolific career. Appearing in such publications as Vogue, French Vogue, Marie-Claire, Elle and Playboy, among others, Newton’s black-and-white images are famous in the worlds of high fashion and art.

Born in Berlin in 1920, he began studying art at the American School in Berlin, and by 1936, after developing a deep interest in photography, he began and apprenticeship with Elsie Simon (also known as Yva), then a famous photographer. As Jews, Newton and his family were forced to flee Germany in 1938. Newton first moved to Singapore, where he lived for two years, before relocating to Australia in 1940 where he married the actress June Brunell, who would become an artistic partner later in his career. It was during the 1940s that Newton opened a small photo studio in Melbourne, and his commercial career took off. He was commissioned by nearly all the top fashion magazines of the time, whose editors and readers were continuously captivated by his work.

Once his career was firmly established, and with the support and encouragement of his wife, Newton’s artistic focus transitioned to erotic and often fetishistic subject matter. This radical, edgy shift in his practice challenged artistic standards of the time, and often hopelessly blurred the boundaries between fashion, documentary and erotic photography. Despite producing increasingly risqué work, he was still sought out as a portraitist for some of the most famous faces of the time, from actors to politicians; many of these portraits were featured in Vanity Fair throughout the 1980s.

Although Newton continued to photograph, the later part of his career saw the production of several books with different themes—curated collections of his work that were more substantial than the comparatively ephemeral magazine reproduction. Newton died in Los Angeles in 2004 following a car crash. His works can be found a number of museums, including the International Center for Photography, New York, and the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles.

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