Helmut Newton


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(1920–2004), Berlin-born Australian fashion photographer whose vision of an aggressively confident and predatory form of female sexuality dominated the last third of the 20th century, when his career was at its zenith. Determined to be a photographer from his teens, Newton served an apprenticeship with the fashion and theatre photographer Yva (1900–42). His Jewish background compelled him to emigrate in 1938, first to Singapore, then Australia, where he served in the army from 1940 to 1945. Influenced by the photojournalist Erich Salomon and iconic fashion photographers like de Meyer, Steichen, and Penn, he moved to Melbourne, where his career as a freelance began. Settling in Paris in 1957, he worked for international titles such as Jardin des modes, Queen, Playboy, Elle, and Nova, quickly establishing his signature oeuvre with images of powerful, seemingly ‘machine-made’ women in aggressively sexual roles. Captured almost exclusively in settings associated with the jet-set elite, Newton's photographs spoke of an intensely personal fantasy world where women are simultaneously dominant and dominated. Inspired by the nocturnal worlds created by European modernists like Brassaï and fascinated by the burgeoning—then principally Roman—genre of paparazzo photography, Newton's interest in voyeurism extended to using night-vision telescopes and binoculars. His erotic idiom was most prominent in the 1970s in magazines like French and American Vogue, associated with products by such groundbreaking 20th-century designers as Yves Saint-Laurent, Ungaro, and Chanel.


From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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