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Helmut Newton (German/Australian, 1920-2004)


Birth Place: Berlin (Berlin state, Germany)

Helmut Newton's unique approach transformed fashion photography from simple captures of the featured object to images with a style and story of their own, and throughout his career his revolutionary work became synonymous with the glamor of Vogue.

There was nothing glamorous about Newton's early life. As a Jew in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, his family suffered from the anti-Semitism of the era. His father spent a short while in concentration camps. When he was 18, Newton's parents fled to Chile and Newton made his own way to Singapore. The British then interned him as an "enemy alien" and sent him to Australia. After serving in the Australian Army, Newton became an Australian citizen and at war's end opened a photography studio in Melbourne.

Newton's photographic career started early. He bought his first camera when he was 12, and began an apprenticeship for a German photographer when he was 16. That photographer, Yva, specialized in portraits, nudes, and fashion. Later, Newton's own studio in Melbourne emphasized fashion and theatre photography, and those subjects remained his specialties the rest of his life. Later his work added an erotic edge, sometimes with sado-masochistic or fetishistic feelings. His erotic style continued to develop throughout the 1970s, including celebrity photographs taken for Playboy magazine.

Newton's work was acclaimed during his lifetime and he received many awards. In 1990 he received the French Grand Prix National de la Photographie. In 1992 he received the Officier des Arts, Lettres, et Sciences award from Monaco as well as Das Grosse Verdienstkreuz (the Great Cross of Merit) from Germany.

Helmut Newton died in 2004, after a car accident in California. His work can be seen at the Museum of Photography in Berlin, where the Helmut Newton Foundation displays a permanent exhibit.

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