Los Angeles, United States
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.
- Newton took fashion photography out of the studio and into the vitality of the street, bringing to his work the immediacy and dynamism of the paparazzi. "A woman does not live in front of a white paper" he said, in reference to the studio, "she lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room." By bringing a journalistic element into his photography, he infused his photographs with human interest.
- Newton expressed through photography the idea that women's sexuality could give them power. The women he portrays are independent, and in command. He encourages the viewer to question the sexual objectification of women by forcing them to confront their own voyeuristic gaze.
- Newton borrowed from cinema, erotica, journalism, and art, giving no credence to the distinction between high and low brow art forms, a theme shared by many modern artists. What makes Newton's contribution unique is bringing these influences to fashion advertising.
- Newton's admiration for the cinema, particularly Film Noir, is evident in his preference for black and white film, seductive women, and mysterious narrative elements. He utilises elaborate sets, highly posed scenes, and of course, glamorous attire, but at the heart of the photographs, these are always in service of conveying human emotion.
Biography of Helmut Newton
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
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.
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.
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.
Influences and Connections
- Mark Arbeit
- Just Loomis
- George Holz
- David Bailey
- Terrance Donovan
- David Lynch
- Yves Saint Laurent
- Karl Lagerfeld
- 20th Century Fashion Photography
Useful Resources on Helmut Newton
- Helmut Newton: AutobiographyOur PickBy Helmut Newton
- Helmut Newton's IllustratedBy Helmut Newton
- Helmut Newton and Alice Springs: Us and ThemBy Helmut Newton and June Newton
- Helmut Newton: SUMOBy June Newton
- Helmut Newton: WorkBy Françoise Marquet
- Big NudesBy Helmut Newton
- White WomenBy Helmut Newton
- Playboy: Helmut NewtonBy Helmut Newton
- Helmut Newton: A Gun for HireBy June Newton
- Helmut Newton: Pages from the GlossiesBy Helmut Newton
- The Bad and The Beautiful: Helmut NewtonBy Daniel Cantagallo / Alvar / September 2013
- Intimacy, Love, and the Body - Rethinking Helmut Newton's PhotographyBy Jan Bock / Kings Review / Oct 4, 2014
- Helmut Newton: Naked ambitionBy John Walsh / The Independent / Sept 18, 2002
- Helmut NewtonBy Amanda Hopkinson / The Guardian / Jan 26, 2004
- Helmut Newton vs. Mario Testino: Barcelona in Vogue, Then and NowBy Laird Borrelli-Persson / Vogue / May12, 2014
- Known as the King of Kink
- In series 3, episode 2 of the Gilmore Girls, Helmut Newton is referred to as Louise's godfather and considered as a possible photographer for a class photograph
- Mario Testino homage to Helmut's Elsa Peretti in Halston Bunny Costume, New York (1975) when he photographed comedian Tina Fey for Vogue in 2010