Breaking taboos and documenting and shaping society’s changing attitudes to sex and female empowerment have assured Helmut Newton’s position as one of the world’s most celebrated and distinguished photographers. He had fearless ability to celebrate humanity through controversial and innovative portraiture. Indeed author JG Ballard has argued that Newton was in fact nothing less than ‘the world’s greatest visual artist’.
Newton's technical accomplishment is steadfast, with classically meticulous use of light: bold, clean and crisp, highlighting flawless skin that illuminates the frame. Shooting breathtaking photographs portraying generations of fashion, film and musical icons over 70 years, his work was the staple of Vogue, Harpers Bazar and Playboy. His images are instantly recognisable as much for his style as for the countenance of the sitter.
Owning a distinct ability to compose the figure within a landscape, Newton's work invites you to examine the structure of the human form itself, its flesh, its bones, its joints, and question how it moves. ‘There’s a definite contrast’, Helmut Newton says, ‘between the figures and the location - I like that kind of California backyard look; clapboard houses, staircases outdoors. I get inspired, in America, by a certain kind of sleaziness.’
Newton's 'Cyberwomen' ride the boarder between empowerment and exploitation with unabashed sexuality; the thick, sticky scent of sensuality drips casually from the lines and curves of every subject. Yet his nudes lift the female body far from simple life studies or artist's muse, to hold an altogether more potent self presence. Brimming with rebellious attitude through scowling faces, dangerous situations or awkward stances, they are moody, dramatic and powerful. Commissioned exclusively by Eyestorm in 2000, the models in the series are all posed in everyday locations around Los Angeles.
Born in Germany in 1920 to German and American parents, Newton fled to Singapore to escape the Nazis in 1938 where he worked as a photographer before being interned by the British government to Australia. During World War II, Newton became a truck driver for the Australian army, then later married June Browne (or Brunell as she was later known), an Australian actress who later became a photographer under the pseudonym ‘Alice Springs’. Newton regained his career as a photographer in the 50’s and went into partnership with Henry Talbot in 1956. In 1961 Newton settled in Paris where he concentrated on fashion photography with masochistic and fetishistic subtexts and nude studies of women. This marked the beginning of the work that he would become famous for. In later life Newton lived in Monte Carlo and Los Angeles, where he met his death in 2004 when he suffered a heart attack whilst driving and his car hit a wall. He was 84 years old.
our article on Helmut Newton and 'Investing in Art' here