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We see a lot of sexy photos of women in today's magazines, most of them designed only to titillate and excite men, having no artistic message that goes beyond “I am sexy”. In the fashion photography world, however, there is one man that has used the female form to delve into human nature even though it is viewed by many as pornographic and inappropriate. Helmut Newton, for decades, pushed the envelope in fashion photography.
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Born on October 31, 1920, in Berlin, Helmut Newton grew up in a privileged family. Because of his passion for photography, he stopped going to school and pursued an apprenticeship with Elsie Simon, a top photographer. He only had this job for a while because he had to flee Germany due to Adolf Hitler's violent treatment of Jews in Germany. He went to Singapore and got a job there. That did not last long. He moved around Singapore for a while until he moved to Australia in 1940. There, he settled and built a new life with his wife, June Brunell. He continued following his passion for photography, eventually getting his work to appear in top fashion magazines around the world.
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His Career as a Photographer
From his small photo studio that he built in Melbourne, he eventually got the creative momentum that led him to get his photos published in French Vogue in 1961. From there, his name became synonymous to the magazine's look and feel, leading to more work for other magazines such as Nova, Queen, Marie-Claire, Elle, Playboy and different editions of Vogue. His provocative photos of women earned him titles like “King of Kink”. This image of his kind of photography was cemented with the release of his book called “White Women,” an erotic publication that defines his style and artistic vision.
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Purveyor of Powerful Women
Helmut Newton images depicting women in men's clothing and portraying them as powerful figures, breaking all the molds built by society, made heads turn. It also led some people to call for his head to roll. But even with all the controversy, he continued pushing the envelope in photographing women by taking images of nude bodies in provocative positions. It may have been met by scrutiny and rage in the beginning, but it eventually became the industry standard. His unconventional images of femme fatales made Helmut Newton a legend in fashion photography. Not even his death in 2004 would end his undeniable influence over how photography can display the power in women.
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Helmut Newton did not just limit his photography to nude women and fashion. He also shared with the whole world his early life as a survivor of the Third Reich invasion in Germany. He took portraits of German personalities and other people relevant to this very difficult time in world history. Helmut Newton images clearly show the world through the eyes of a nomad who wandered the earth, not giving a care to people's judgments and myopic views.
Newton died on January 23, 2004, due to vehicular accident in California. It was reported that he lost control of his car because of a sudden heart attack. The 83-year-old photographer crashed into the wall beyond the Hotel Chateau Marmont's driveway in Hollywood.