the beatiful ones…
Newton was born in Berlin, the son of Klara “Claire” (née Marquis) and Max Neustädter, a button factory owner. His family was jewish. Newton attended the Heinrich-von-Treitschke–Realgymnasium and the American School in Berlin. Interested in photography from the age of 12 when he purchased his first camera, he worked for the German photographer Yva (Elsie Neuländer Simon) from 1936.
The increasingly oppressive restrictions placed on Jews by the Nuremberg laws meant that his father lost control of the factory in which he manufactured buttons and buckles; he was briefly interned in a concentration camp on Kristallnacht, 9 November 1938, which finally compelled the family to leave Germany. Newton’s parents fled to South America. He was issued with a passport just after turning 18 and left Germany on 5 December 1938. At Triestehe boarded the Conte Rosso (along with about 200 others escaping the Nazis), intending to journey to China. After arriving in Singapore he found he was able to remain there, first briefly as a photographer for the Straits Times and then as a portrait photographer.
Newton settled in Paris in 1961 and continued to work as a fashion photographer. His images appeared in magazines including the French edition of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylised scenes, often withsado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts. A heart attack in 1970 reduced Newton’s output, but his profile continued to increase, especially with his 1980 “Big Nudes” series, which marked the pinnacle of his erotic-urban style, underpinned with excellent technical skills. Newton also worked in portraiture and more fantastical studies.
Newton shot a number of pictorials for Playboy, including pictorials of Nastassja Kinski and Kristine DeBell. Original prints of the photographs from his August 1976 pictorial of DeBell, “200 Motels, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation” were sold at auctions of Playboy archives by Bonhams in 2002 for $21,075, and by Christie’s in December 2003 for $26,290.“Three Boys from Pasadena
In 2009, June Browne Newton conceptualised a tribute exhibition to Helmut, based around three photographers who had trained extensively under Helmut: Mark Arbeit, Just Loomis, and George Holz. All three had been photography students at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1979 when they became Newton’s longtime assistants, and all three went on to independent careers. The exhibit premiered at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin and combined the work of all three with personal snapshots, contact sheets, and letters from their time with Helmut.
In his later life, Newton lived in both Monte Carlo and Los Angeles, California. He was in an accident on 23 January 2004, when his car sped out of control and hit a wall in Sunset Boulevard, coming out from the Chateau Marmont Hotel, which had for several years served as his residence in Southern California. He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His ashes are buried three plots down from the grave of Marlene Dietrich at the Städtischer Friedhof III in Berlin.Memorial plaque at site of Helmut Newton’s accident at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles, marking the spot where his car hit the wall.