Mar 24, 2012 12:00AM

An Homage to Helmut Newton

The original 'King of Kink'.

Last night I went to the press preview of a new Helmut Newton retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. In attendance were a handful of press, and Newton's 89-year-old wife, June, who answered some questions (in French) from the media. I couldn't follow all of the conversation, however, when June became impatient with the questions she would make loud exclamations in English: "I can't hear you!!!" "What do you mean, what does it mean?" and (to her companion) "I think you need to tell me to calm down!!" She's Australian and it was comforting to see someone else frustrated with the French. June's frustrations, however, are unlikely to be cultural - she has lived in Europe longer than she has lived in Australia - it's probably that she's spent a lifetime explaining and (at one time) defending Helmut's work. Maybe she just wishes people would read the press release.
 

Helmut Newton was an interesting photographer, not just because of his provocative photography of women but also his commercial success. Although he had his fair share of critiques (mostly feminists), Newton was not only a great artiste, but also a well-paid one: a self-proclaimed "gun for hire", at the height of his career he was commanding 15,000 USD a pop. As June explained last night, "he never took photographs in the hope that they would appear in an exhibition, he really did it because it was his job."

Helmut and June met in Melbourne, after Helmut fled from Germany during the Second World War. She walked into his studio one day as a model and ended up his wife of more than fifty years, accompanying him on most of his shoots.

Although Newton's images might be indicative of a certain type of man, " a pervert, a monster" as June said last night, the reality was something very different. He was "like a little boy" and as such was always drawn to strong women - amazonian types. The supers of the eighties and nineties were his stars and it's hard to imagine what he would have done with the size zeros of today.

Just as Helmut loved to photograph strong woman, he was drawn to them in life and June was his perfect match. (Major props to anyone who is unfazed by their husband shooting nude supermodels for a living.) The love between Helmut (Helmie as she calls him) and June (Junie), is most apparent in June's documentary, Helmut by June (2007), for which she had filmed Helmut at work. (Helmut passed away in 2004 so the footage predates the 2000s). In one scene he finishes shooting a half-naked model, then dances toward the video camera (which June is holding) and says, "Another $10,000 to buy more diamonds for my Junie." What a guy!

The film (which is also on show at the exhibition) shows Helmut not as a sex-crazed "monster", but a dorky, jolly German who wears Hawaiian shirts, has a killer tan and gets sad when he realises his favourite underpants are on their last legs. As the credits roll, June is in front of camera for the first time and he asks her to pose. He giggles and comments admiringly, "That's great... that is beautiful ... Nice cleavage - not bad for an old lady ... Oh, she's great."

I was lucky enough to interview June earlier this week (in English), but you will have to wait a few months until that comes out in the magazine. In the meantime, check out this old news feature about Helmut, featuring a young Andre Leon Talley, bad eighties hairdos and Karen Mulder's laugh. Or try and get to Paris to see the exhibition. It is incredible (as is Paris in the spring).

Images courtesy of the Grand Palais and the Helmut Newton Estate.

www.helmutnewton.com

Alice Cavanagh

Latest


Watch Oyster x Camper Part #2

And see our stomping, sneaker-inspired beach shoot.


Gucci SS15 Show Notes @ MFW

That 70s Gucci.


Backstage: Fashion East @ LFW

Featuring the SS15 collections of Ed Marler, Louise Alsop & Helen Lawrence.


Submit Your Banal Detrius To Nick Cave's Online Musuem

Random ephemera that kind of means something to you, wanted.


The Average Tumblr User Makes $80K Per Year

Money rules everything around them.


Facebook To Meet With LGBT Community Over 'Real Name' Rules

After forcing people to use their legal names on profiles.


LFW Diary: Day #4 & #5 Feat. Ryan Lo, Fashion East & More

Plus backstage images from Ryan Lo’s tropical paradise.


Watch The Bell Knox Documentary Series

The Duke adult film star on being outed and #pornstarproblems.


Ashish Repped Kim & Kanye @ LFW

As well as One Direction, Miley Cyrus and amyl.


Andreja Pejic Did A Reddit AMA

Read the highlights.


Burberry Prorsum SS15 Show Notes @ LFW

Spring time, ring a ding a ding time!


Lena Dunham & Bill Cosby Share Words To Live By

And other things we learnt from her Proust Questionaire.


Grimes Drops Amazing 'Bedtime Mix' On BBC Radio 1

Feat. Aphex Twin, Patsy Cline, Portishead and more.


Frank Ocean Gets New Management

Signs with Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 group.


Snoop Dogg Tweets, Instagrams Homophobic Slur

Then deletes it less than an hour later.


Oyster Playlist: Nicky Night Time

A celebration of cut and paste.


Holly Childs Is Your New Favourite Young Oz Writer [Interview]

We talk to the Melbourne-based writer, editor, internet artist and curator for Oyster #105.


Australian Artist Jonathan Zawada Tattoos Billionaires [Interview]

We talk rainbows, sportswear and Aussies in LA in Oyster #105.


Exclusive: Stream Perfume Genius' 'Too Bright' Album

PLUS read his Imaginary Dating Profile!


News Flash: Everyone Is Single

For the first time ever, singles are the majority.


Beyonce MIGHT Be Pregnant Again

Jay's words guys...Jay's words.


Amy Winehouse's Statue Is Staring At You

Look into the eyes, the eyes, the eyes.


Video Emerges Of Kanye West's Wheelchair Gaff

"Oh.... they ARE in a wheelchair?? Right LET'S DO THIS."


Copycat: Shop The Best Looks In Australian Film

You won't look terrible, Muriel.