Helmut Newton: The New Exhibition

Photo of Julie Bertin
24 October 2016

The new exhibition Helmut Newton: Pages from the Glossies has recently opened at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. This photo exhibition explores nearly 500 of Newton’s editorial photos and the women who inspired them.

Helmut Newton | © Emmanuele / Flickr

His Life

Helmut Newton, a German-Australian photographer, (1920-2004) was born Helmut Neustädter in Berlin, Germany. His interest in photography skyrocketed at the age of 12, when he purchased his first camera.

His early studies were at the American School in Berlin. By 1936, his fascination with photography began and his interest in school waned. As photography became his main vehicle of attraction, he left school and started an apprenticeship with then renowned photographer Elsie Simon, who was known as Yva. Celebrated for her elegant fashion, theatre, and nude photographs, Yva inspired Newton throughout his career.

Photos | © Tim Lenz / Flickr

In 1938, Newton’s parents secured him a passage on a ship to China, fleeing Hitler’s vicious campaign against German Jews. Newton was interrogated by British authorities while in Singapore and was sent to Australia in 1940. Newton later joined the Australian army, serving for five years.

After the war in 1945, he became a British subject and changed his name to Newton in 1946. He also opened a small photo studio in Melbourne.

In 1948, Newton married actress June Brunell, a fellow photographer who later would photograph Newton and work with him on his books.

Genius with a camera | ©Stephen Johnston / Flickr

His Career

Newton was hired by Australian Vogue in the 1950s, by British Vogue in 1957-1958, and by French Vogue in 1961; a magazine that he stamped with his trademark images for a quarter century. Throughout the years, Newton contributed to magazines such as Playboy, Queen, Nova, Marie-Claire, Elle and the American, Italian, and German editions of Vogue.

After a nearly fatal heart attack in 1971 in New York City, and with the encouragement of his wife, his photography began to take on sexual themes. His photographs featured vignettes he staged, often of fraught moments heavy with overtones of voyeurism, fetishism, lesbianism, and sado-masochism,

Over the years, Newton’s work centred primarily on fashion, nudes, and portraits. He challenged conventions created a provocative, hybrid photography that embraced fashion, erotica, portrait, and documentary elements, producing a highly stylized interpretation of elegant and decadent ways of life. Newton turned his attention to making powerful, confrontational nudes, and portraits of celebrities became an evermore important aspect of Newton’s work.

In 1975 Paris, Newton staged his first one-man exhibition. The following year he published his first book, White Women. Over the next twenty-five years he worked steadily and productively, publishing a series of books and creating countless exhibitions, the most impressive of which was surely the large-scale celebration of his career at the New National Gallery in Berlin on the occasion of his eightieth birthday in 2000, accompanied by the simply titled book, Work.

He died of injuries from a car accident at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, California in 2004.

Thierry Mugler suit photographed by | © Helmut Newton for "Harper's Bazaar" - 1994 / Flickr

The Helmut Newton Foundation

Shortly before his death, he established the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin, Germany, and donated approximately one thousand of his works to his native city.

For the first time, the Helmut Newton Foundation present enlargements of the single-and double-paged images in Pages From The Glossies. This exhibition offers viewers a new perspective on many of Helmut Newton’s iconic photographs. Spanning more than four decades, the images are presented as facsimiles of the original magazine pages in which they were published between 1956 and 1998. Many of the images that would later become iconic were shot for fashion editorials in the pages of Vogue, Elle, Queen and Stern. In 1998, Newton compiled a selection of these images in a book titled Pages from the Glossies, from which this new exhibition takes its name. They include the original headlines, page numbers, commentary, and captation from the magazines they originally appeared in. During this time, he was regularly commissioned by editors and publishers to capture his unique vision of contemporary fashion. This Berlin exhibition remains true to its source, showcasing more than 230 magazine pages and nearly 500 individual images.

Pages from the Glossies is at The Helmut Newton Foundation Museum of Photography in Berlin from 3 December 2015 – 22 May 2016.

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