Helmut Newton, one of the great german photographers of the twentieth century, radicalized fashion photography by redefining the way women were portrayed in advertising for haute couture.
1. His real name was Helmut Neustaedter
Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin in 1920, Newton’s real name was Neustaedter.
After a warning that he was about to be arrested by the Nazis, he fled with just a razor and a handful of cash he grabbed. He and his parents later fled Germany altogether, his parents travelling to South America while he boarded a ship in 1938, bound for China, along with 200 other fleeing the Nazis. He didn’t actually make it to China, instead landing in Singapore where he was able to get a job with the Straits Times as a photographer.
After the war, he became a British subject and changed his name to Newton.
2. He hated working in the studio - and he was colour-blind!
He hated working in the studio, often working at night and nearly always used natural light when possible. And he was colour-blind, unable to differentiate between greens and blues.
His work is almost always in black and white, a style which was influenced by Brassai, whom be admired very much.
Newton championed Brassai’s street photography, borrowing from New Wave cinema and the surreal images of Man Ray and Eugène Atget.
3. At 14 Helmut dreamed to become a fashion photographer at VOGUE.
Newton got his first camera at the age of 12. He took his first seven pictures in a subway, which, he later admitted, all came out too dark. The eighth was of the radio tower in Berlin. By the time he was 14, he was working as a photographer’s assistant and frequently skipping school to photograph childhood girlfriends in the streets wearing his mother’s clothes. It was then, he later recalled, that he realised he wanted to become a fashion photographer at Vogue. At first, Newton’s father did not encourage his son’s interest in photography. At the age of 16, however, it was clear that Newton would not be joining the family-run button factory, and he was apprenticed to the portrait, nude and fashion photographer Else Neuländer Simon, better known as Yva, who was deported to a Nazi camp and killed.
Over his prolific career, Newton worked extensively for American, Italian, German and French Vogue, shooting 64 covers for the latter, as well as for Marie Claire, Elle and Queen, among others.
4. A brush with death led him to ‘nudes, nothing but nudes’
Newton suffered a heart attack in New York in December 1971. This brush with death would greatly influence his approach to photography. ‘When I left the hospital, I rethought everything,’ he revealed in Filthy magazine in 1976. ‘The unnecessary work and the frantic competition are finished! Today, I only take pictures for money or pleasure.’
Newton gave up fashion a year later to photograph ‘nudes, nothing but nudes’, but quickly found this became ‘even more boring than clothes’. He returned to fashion with a renewed enthusiasm, integrating his newfound experience of the nude into his campaign work.
5. Time magazine dubbed him ‘The King of Kink’
In the early 1970s Newton started working for Playboy — a collaboration that would last for around 30 years. Among his most famous sitters for the magazine was Charlotte Rampling. In 1973 Newton photographed the actress, who would later become his muse, nude on a dining table in Arles, a glass of wine in hand.
If you live in BERLIN a must see for Helmut admires is the Helmut Newton Foundation, please check their offical site for information
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