Helmut Newton was an Australian-German photographer born in 1920 in Berlin and died four years after the millennium. He was from a Jewish background, the son of Klara and Max Neustädte. He went to the Heinrich-von-Treitschke-Realgymnasium in Berlin and then to an American School in the same city. Newton was keen to discover the horizons of photography at a very young age, when he was just twelve years old. He later purchased his own personal camera and began working for Elsie Neuländer Simon, a German photographer from 1936 onwards. At this time, Jews were being oppressed increasingly in Germany by the Nuremberg law and because of this Newton’s father lost hold over his factory that produced buckles and buttons. Hence, the family was forced to migrate. While Newton’s family was in South America, he made his journey to Singapore and decided to remain there first as a photographer for Straits Times and eventually as a portrait photographer.
In 1940, Helmut Newton boarded the Queen May and went to Australia on permission of the British authorities since he became their internee. He worked in Northern Victoria as a fruit picker after his internment was over in 1942. Six years later, he married June Browne, an actress who afterwards became an affluent photographer.
Two years prior to his marriage, in 1946 he set up a studio in Melbourne in the trendy Flinders Lane. In the prosperous years after the war, Newton worked on theatre and fashion photography. In 1953, Newton displayed his work in an exhibition along with another photographer, Wolfgang Sievers. The show was called, New Visions in Photography and was held in Collins Street at the Federal Hotel. After this, Henry Talbot became Newton’s partner and the studio of the latter was given a new name – Helmut Newton and Henry Talbot.
In the 1950s, Newton’s fashion photography was gaining fame and due to his mounting reputation, he was given the opportunity to exemplify fashion for Vogue magazine, 1956. In 1957, he went to London because he was offered a one year contract from British Vogue. Meanwhile, Talbot was given full authority to manage the studio business. Newton however did not complete his term at Vogue and left to work for German and French magazines instead. In 1959, he signed a contract with Australian Vogue and went back to Melbourne.
Helmut Newton again changed his work place and in 1961 established a residence in Paris to continue working as a fashion photographer. His photographs were featured significantly in Harper’s Bazaar and French Vogue. His approach could be described as stylized, erotic scenes, sometimes accompanied with fetishism and a division of BDSM called sadomasochistic as subtexts. Unfortunately, in 1970 Newton suffered from a heart attack which in result slowed his tempo to do work as efficiently as before. This however did not stop him from receiving continuous fame. In 1980, he produced a series titled Big Nudes that was his masterpiece of technical skills and erotic style.
Newton created pictorials of Kristine DeBell and Nastassja Kinski for Playboy magazine. Original prints of these were auctioned in 2002 by Bonhams and in 2003 by Christies.
Later in his life, he lived interchangeably in Los Angeles and Monte Carlo. He died in 2004 from a car accident when the car’s speed became uncontrollable and hit driveway of a hotel.