Photographing long-legged, high-heeled, and usually scantily clad women who radiate an unbridled sense of eroticism and thus bringing taboo subjects into mainstream fashion photography, the German- Australian photographer, Helmut Newton, is celebrated as one of the most influential photographers of all time, whose subversive approach to subject matter and form brought an edge to his editorial spreads.
Born Helmut Neustädter into a Jewish family in Berlin on October 31, 1920, Helmut Newton dubbed the “King of Kink”. He expressed an early interest in photography and in 1936 began working for the German photographer Elsie Simon, who went by the name Yva. During the Nazi rise to power, he fled Germany with his family and landed in Singapore, where he worked as a photographer. Interned by the authorities in Singapore, he was sent to Australia.
In the 1940s, Newton settled in Australia and later joined the Australian army, serving five years. In 1948, he married actress June Brunell, a fellow photographer who work under the pseudonym Alice Springs. During this time, changed his name to Newton, and opened a small photo studio in Melbourne. In the 1950s, he was hired by Australian “Vogue”; by British Vogue in 1957-1958, and by French Vogue in 1961. Throughout the years, he contributed to magazines such as “Playboy”, “Queen”, “Nova”, “Marie-Claire”, “Elle”, and the American, Italian and German editions of Vogue.
After a fatal heart attack in 1971, Newton began to photograph overtly sexual images. His fashion photography women command attention, they are dangerous, menacing, yet always elegant. He became celebrated for his controversial scenarios, bold lighting, and striking compositions in street or interior settings, rather than studio. He was known for an individual and highly erotic style bordering on the sadomasochistic. His women outraged some feminist viewer and satisfied others. Over the years, Newton's work centered primarily on fashion, nudes and portraits, with the three categories often mixing.
In 1975, Newton staged his first one-man exhibition in Paris. The following year he published his first book, “White Women”. He worked steadily and productively for the next 25 years, publishing a series of books and creating countless exhibitions. On his eightieth birthday in 2000, he organized a large-scale celebration of his career at the Neue National Gallerie in Berlin.
A highly sought after photographer throughout his life, Newton died of injuries from a car accident at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, California on January 23, 2004. Shortly before his death he had established the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin, Germany, and donated approximately one thousand of his works to his native city.