to Helmut Newton
© 1990 Pedro Meyer
Photographer Helmut Newton Killed in Crash
By Anthony Breznican, AP
Newton apparently lost control of his Cadillac while leaving the Hollywood hotel, said Officer April Harding, a police spokeswoman. It was unclear whether he became ill while driving. People were on the sidewalk in front of the driveway, and the car brushed a photographer heading into the hotel before crashing into the wall. Newton was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died a short time later, Harding said.
Newton was a trailblazer in the fashion photography world, exploring power, gender roles and an icy sexuality in his pictures. His trademark "Big Nudes" series featured larger-than-life, black-and-white images of women that portray them as dominating the camera rather than as subjects.
Among the beautiful and powerful people Newton has photographed were Paloma Picasso, Pierre Cardin, Naomi Campbell, Jean-Marie Le Pen and Claudia Schiffer. While Newton also photographed clothed celebrities and nature scenes, he favored photographing women, usually while they wore little more than high heels.
"He was a giant," said Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. "He was a major talent that pushed the boundaries in terms of photography and influenced many, many other photographers in following generations." The German-born photographer said in his 2002 autobiography that when he was 15, he told his father he wanted to be a photographer. The Berlin factory owner told him, "My boy, you'll end up in the gutter. All you think of is girls and photos."
Newton, who was Jewish, fled his homeland for Singapore in December 1938, a month after Nazi-led persecution programs began. He eventually settled in Australia and became a citizen, opening a small photography studio and changing his last name to Newton from Neustaedter. He later took up residence in Monte Carlo, overlooking the Mediterranean — a frequent backdrop for his nude images.
In the prologue to his autobiography, he said his fascination with women dated back to when he was a toddler and recalled seeing his nurse "getting ready to go out, and she is half-naked" in front of a mirror. He described it as a defining moment in his life. In October, he donated more than 1,000 pictures to a new gallery in Berlin, saying he was proud his work would now be on display in his hometown.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called Newton's decision a "sign of reconciliation." "You can chase a man out of his home but you can't rip his home out of his soul," Schroeder said in a letter read at the news conference announcing the donation. Newton's coldly erotic imagery often alarmed feminists as well as those with tamer sensibilities.
A hosiery ad he shot, featured on a giant billboard in Times Square for a time, was banned from the side of New York City buses in 1998 because it was deemed to be too racy. It showed a rear-end view of a woman lying face-down, wearing only a pair of stockings. A side view of her bare breast also was visible. Newton is survived by his wife, June, who works under the name Alice Springs. She was also a favorite subject for the photographer. In one 1973 series of photos, she was portrayed as Hitler wearing a cropped mustache, with model Jerry Hall posing as Eva Braun. The Newtons had no children.