Trending: Celebrating Helmut Newton at 100

By David Schonauer   Wednesday November 25, 2020

Helmut Newton was born on Oct. 31, 1920.

He went on to become one of the most important photographers of the 20th century. Now, 100 years after his birth and 16 years after his death, he is being celebrated with the reissue of a groundbreaking book and a new documentary film. In addition, the Helmut Newton Foundation recently honored the photographer with an event called “Helmut Newton One Hundred.”  Photos spanning his career were presented along an 85 meter-long wall in Kreuzberg and on posters around the city.

Berlin was where Newton became a photographer. He fled the city, and Germany, just prior to World War II, though, as AnOther noted recently, Newton never forgot its formative influence on his life and work.

“It was the place he had learned to be a photographer and where stark Nazi iconography played a major role in shaping his vision – even though he grew up in a Jewish family,” noted AnOther. He returned periodically to Berlin after the war to shoot fashion editorials and fondly revisited his old neighborhood as witnessed in the 2002 German documentary of his life, Mein Leben.

“Monica Bellucci, Monte Carlo, 2001”

The book now being rereleased is SUMO, the Newton retrospective originally published by Taschen in 1999. The aptly-named book weighed 77 pounds and came with its own Philippe Stark-designed stand. A signed first-edition of SUMO became the most expensive book of the 20th century when it sold at auction in Berlin for 620,000DM in 2000, approximately $370,000 today, noted Vogue recently. Taschen’s new version, called BABY SUMO, is about half the size of the original and costs a mere $1,500. Below: Pages from the new book.

The new documentary, titled The Bad and the Beautiful, confronts the provocative nature of Newton’s fashion photography. But the film, noted the website, “is less about Newton himself and more about how his work made the women he photographed feel." 

“I still think about him everyday: his sense of humor, his elegance, his positiveness,” says his friend Gero von Boehm, directory of the film. “It was his brand to do those provocative photographs. It would never be possible today. So it’s history we’re talking about,” von Boehm told AnOther.

“Fleeing Nazi persecution in 1938, Newton traveled to Singapore and later Australia, where he met his wife and creative collaborator June Newton, who has edited the new release of SUMO,” noted Vogue. It wasn’t until the mid 1960s that Newton began to focus seriously on fashion editorial photography. His 1967 image of model Willy Van Rooy is an early example of narrative storytelling within the fashion shoot, noted Vogue. Inspired by the famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. the image shows Van Rooy hurtling toward the camera as she flees a small airplane coming from behind.

"Willi, British Vogue, London," 1967

"Sie kommen, Naked," 1981

Ellen von Unwerth, a former German model and boundary-pushing fashion photographer in her own right, was deeply influenced by Newton. “His pictures show so much strength, provocation and humor, which is rare to find anywhere else,” she tells AnOther. “He used models to point out adventures of the bourgeois, the rich part of society and his own fantasies which were always a bit shocking but immensely intriguing. His light was not always the most flattering but the women looked strong, powerful, in control, and haunting.
At top: “Amica, Milan, 1982”


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