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C California Style

Helmut Newton, Rue Aubriot, Paris Collections from the series White Women, 1975, chromogenic print. PHOTO: Estate of Helmut Newton.
David Fahey, Helmut Newton, Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles, March, 1985. PHOTO: From the exhibit film by Arclight Productions.

Body of Work

by C California Style

A Helmut Newton retrospective at the Annenberg reveals a storied oeuvre.

Before Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino and Steven Meisel, there was Helmut Newton. On June 29, the Annenberg Space for Photography opens an extraordinary exploration into the life and work of one of the world’s most influential and imitated fashion photographers.

Born Helmut Neustädter in 1920 to a well-off family in Berlin, Newton received his first camera when he was 12. He was 18 when the anti-Semetic Nuremberg Laws were passed. His father was briefly interned at a concentration camp before both parents fled to Chile; Newton headed east toward China and eventually found a safe haven in Singapore and, ultimately, Australia. There, he met his wife of 56 years (actress and photographer June Newton) and opened a photography studio. Commissions from international fashion books eventually moved him to France for a full-time position at Paris Vogue (his infamous firing from which almost ended his career). He would later return to the magazine and embark on a solo career, creating books and exhibitions of famed black-and-white nudes.

Helmut by June, a film by Newton’s wife, will be incorporated in the exhibit offering an intimate glimpse of the lensman’s personal life. Footage includes St. Tropez shoots with Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen to private moments with June in the Newtons’ room at the Chateau Marmont. The couple lived at the hotel during the wintertime (Monaco in the summer) until the artist’s tragic death in 2004, when he lost control of his Cadillac SUV and hit a retaining wall across the street from the Chateau.

At the Annenberg, more than 125 prints will be on display from Newton’s first three books (White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes) along with another commissioned film. Participants in the Arclight Production documentary include gallery owner David Fahey and the Three Boys from Pasadena (Newton’s photography students Mark Arbeit, George Holz and Just Loomis). One consistent remark from Newton’s friends and followers: his singular vision lives on. June 29-Sept. 8; annenbergspaceforphotography.org

Written by Kelsey McKinnon