Helmut Newton (1920 – 2004) was a German-Australian fashion photographer. Newton was born in Berlin and being Jewish fled Nazi Germany at the age of 18. After arriving in Singapore he found he was able to remain there, first and briefly as a photographer for the Straits Times and then as a portrait photographer.
Newton was interned by British authorities while in Singapore, and was sent to Australia in 1940. There, in 1946 he set up a studio in Sydney and worked on fashion and theater photography in the affluent post-war years.
Newton’s growing reputation as a fashion photographer was rewarded when he secured a commission to illustrate fashions in a special Australian supplement for Vogue magazine, published in January 1956. He won a 12-month contract with British Vogue and left for London in February 1957. Newton left the magazine before the end of his contract and went to Paris, where he worked for French and German magazines.
Newton settled in Paris in 1961 and continued work as a fashion photographer. His works appeared in magazines including, most significantly, French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylized scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts. A heart attack in 1970 slowed Newton’s output, but his notoriety continued to increase, most notably with his 1980 “Big Nudes” series, which marked the pinnacle of his erotic-urban style, underpinned with excellent technical skills.
In his later life, Newton lived in both Monte Carlo and Los Angeles. He was in an accident on 23 January 2004, when his car sped out of control and hit a wall in the driveway of the Chateau Marmont which had for several years served as his residence in Southern California. He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His ashes are buried next to Marlene Dietrich at the Städtischer Friedhof III in Berlin.