The most beautiful Newton book ever is back in print.
Schirmer/Mosel is now bringing out a new edition of its classic Helmut Newton: Portraits. The collection features fabulous photographs by portrait specialist Newton, produced over a span of almost 35 years, and is and remains the definitive overview of this period of his work.
Born in Berlin in 1920, Helmut Newton, who died in 2004, fittingly in Hollywood, is one of the grand masters of international photography. Newton learnt his trade with legendary Berlin-based photographer Yva, famed for her elegant and erotic fashion shots, portraits, and nudes. Subsequently forced into exile from Nazi Germany, his escape route took him, via Shanghai and Singapore, to Australia and it was not until the end of the 1950s that he returned to Europe. He achieved global fame in Paris at the end of the 1960s with his highly erotic nude photos of women, conveying an image of the female which was stylized and as cool as it was confident, overtly physical and materialistic. It was an image which repeatedly triggered controversy.
Alongside his nudes, Newton’s fame was largely built and consolidated on his portraits, especially those of women. These were principally female stars from the world of showbiz. Singers and actresses in particular repeatedly entrusted their public portrayals to the master’s expert hand and his powerful vision.
This large-format book of portraits, first published in 1987, brings them together – actors and celebrities such as Liz Taylor and Jack Nicholson, the Warhols and the Schnabels of the art world, the photographers, the poets, the designers, the big names in politics, the old money and the aristocrats, as well as many, many more besides.
“When it comes to people, I am a good observer,” Newton rightly said of himself. Indeed, his camera could be inexorable, like that of a hard-nosed paparazzo, and were he not a professional portrait photographer you might have mistaken him for a caricaturist. His famous models nonetheless no doubt felt in safe hands with him because he always chose a fitting setting in which to orchestrate their personalities – a technique he borrowed from the tradition of portrait painting. And allowing himself this kind of scope doubtless goes some way to explaining the secret of Newton’s success in becoming probably the most important society photographer of our times. His pictures manifest a playful mastery, succeeding in achieving a balance between his celebrity clientele’s wish to be seen and their desire to remain aloof.
At the same time, with their cool eroticism, captivating elegance and characteristic delight in the morbid his pictures always pithily encapsulate their subjects. Where else could you find this kind of 248-page large-format book bursting with excellent pictures, printed in six colors and boasting an outstanding quality —if not with Schirmer/Mosel?