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Helmut Newton

American Photographer

Helmut Newton Photo
Born: October 31, 1920
Berlin, Germany
Died: January 23, 2004
Los Angeles, United States
I hate good taste. It's the worst thing that can happen to a creative person.
Helmut Newton Signature

Summary of Helmut Newton

Dubbed the King of Kink, Helmut Newton, one of the great photographers of the twentieth century, radicalized fashion photography by redefining the way women were portrayed in advertising for haute couture. Newton paved the way for fashion photography to become more provocative, and more daring. Incorporating complex themes of sexuality and desire into his work, he showed that fashion photography did not have to be banal and safe, but had the scope to explore the human condition in all its depth.

Key Ideas

Biography of Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton Photo

Helmut Newton was born Helmut Neustädter in Berlin on October 31, 1920 to Max Neustädter, a wealthy button manufacturer, and mother Klara (nee Marquis). Klara was a widow with a son, Hans, when she married Max, a soldier from Silesia who took over the running of the button factory left behind by her late husband.

Important Art by Helmut Newton

Fashion shoot for Australian Wool Board, Melbourne, Australia (1959)

Fashion shoot for Australian Wool Board, Melbourne, Australia (1959)

This photograph, taken for American vogue in the late 1950s, shows Australian super model Janice Wakely wearing a black top, matching checked woollen skirt and handbag, and goggles around her neck. She is standing, leaning out of an open top car, driving down a city street with an outstretched arm clutching her handbag. The model's face and posture are entirely calm and composed, in contrast to the busy street behind her. Her comfortable, yet stylish clothes, combined with her commanding pose, suggest freedom and independence, anticipating the sexual revolution and women's rights movements of the 1960s.

Part of his outdoor series depicting the 'modern woman', this image brings fashion photography out of the studio and onto the street, perfectly characterizing the irreverent style that would come to be Newton's signature.

How to Make the Fur Fly, British Vogue, London (1967)

How to Make the Fur Fly, British Vogue, London (1967)

This photograph, taken for British Vogue in 1967, shows another super model, Willy Van Rooy, running down an aircraft runway towards the camera, with a shocked expression on her face, as a low flying plane follows close behind her. She wears white GoGo boots, a fur coat, black leather gloves and a woollen hat. Helmut had a keen eye for beautiful women, and this wasn't the first time he had worked with Willy Van Rooy, having previously shot her for French Elle and French Vogue.

The photograph was part of an eight-page spread in the magazine wearing Revillon Frères furs under the heading "How to Make the Fur Fly". Inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest (1959), Helmut Newton notes in his autobiography that his wife June came up with the idea as he was having creative block in the days leading up to the shoot, suggesting he "do a Hitchcock".

This is an important early example of the storytelling quality in his fashion photography, as well as his willingness to take risks. The shoot was dicey as not only did Newton have to find a pilot at short notice, the model had to run out in front of the plane at the last possible moment in order to capture both in the same shot. The phrase 'make the fur fly' meaning to 'create an uproar' suggests the affect of Newton's photography on the conservative and artificial world of fashion, figuratively making furs fly on the fashion runway as much as literally on the aircraft runway in this photograph.

Elsa Peretti in Halston Bunny Costume, New York (1975)

Elsa Peretti in Halston Bunny Costume, New York (1975)

A cliché in any other hands, this iconic portrait shows Elsa Peretti, model and later jewellery designer, posing for French Vogue in a Halston bunny costume on the roof of her apartment building in New York.

Inspired by his Playboy experience, which allowed him to freely explore the eroticism and sensuality of the female body, this photograph takes a private night-time fantasy world and brings it into broad daylight. The backdrop of the metropolis with stacks of windows ascending high rise buildings, hints at the hidden voyeurism present in conservative city life.

Helmut Newton considered this to be a photograph that epitomised the 1970s; blending the two worlds of erotic and fashion photography, Newton represents the coming out into the open of his exploration of sexuality as the grip of traditional moral values loosened following the sexual liberation of the 1960s.

Content compiled and written by Zaid S Sethi

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Helmut Newton Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. .
Content compiled and written by Zaid S Sethi
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 18 Aug 2018. Updated and modified regularly
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