Helmut Newton: the bad boy of photography

Self-Portrait with Wife and Models from the series Big Nudes – Vogue Studio, Paris 1981
© Helmut Newton Estate

HELMUT NEWTON: THE BAD BOY OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Helmut Newton is one of the most controversial photographers in the world.
Around his photos and exhibitions devoted to him, the debate is always heated, because his shots are provocative.

According to some people he was a genius who transformed photography fashion on purpose; according to other people he was a man who hated women and used them to create unacceptable images.
He himself played with the image of the “bad boy” of photography the world ascribed to him.

Saddle I from the series Sleepless Nights – Paris 1976
© Helmut Newton Estate

Helmut Neustätder, known professionally as Helmut Newton, was born in Berlin on October 31st 1920 to a wealthy family of Jewish origin.
The middle-class environment in which he lived allowed him to follow his passions, and come closer to the world of photography, and at the age of 12 he bought his first camera.

His family left Germany in 1938, after the Nuremberg Laws, and some years later Helmut enlisted with the Australian army to fight in World War II.
In 1946 he took the Australian citizenship, and in 1948 met and married June Brunnell, actress and photographer, (known professionally as June Browne or Alice Springs), with whom Helmut would spend over 50 years.

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HELMUT NEWTON PHOTOGRAPHER

Helmut worked as a freelance photographer in Melbourne, working for various magazines including Playboy, but he achieved success in 1961 when he moved to Paris.
His photos were published in the most famous fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, GQ, Vanity Fair and Marie Claire, and exhibited all over the world.

In 1976 Newton published his first volume of photos “White Women”, 84 images in which nude and eroticism entered the world of fashion for the first time in history.
The photos were innovative and provocative; they transformed the idea of fashion photography and witnessed the transformation of the role of women in the Western society.
From that moment on, Newton’s aesthetic search accompanied his collaboration with the greatest fashion brands such as Chanel, Versace, Blumarine, Yves Saint Laurent, Borbonese and Dolce&Gabbana.

His following books “Sleepless Nights” and “Big Nudes” revolved around women and their bodies, as well, but he transformed fashion photos into portraits, and portraits into provocative and sensual scenes, using photography and fashion as a pretext for creating something completely new and very personal.

 

Tied Up Torso from the series Big Nudes Ramatuelle 1980
© Helmut Newton Estate

Defying conventions, Helmut Newton’s photos entered galleries and museums all around the world, and he became one of the leading photographers of the second half of the 20th century.
He died on June 23rd 2004 at the age of 83, in a car accident while he was driving his Cadillac.
What do you feel looking at these shots?

READ ALSO: Elliott Erwitt, the photographer of the human comedy.

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