While the overarching theme of the PHOTO 2022 International Festival of Photography is expansive—“ being human”—the headline Helmut Newton exhibition is an intimate look at the artist’s life and trajectory. Festival artistic director Elias Redstone, like many, was very familiar with Newton’s most circulated works—the elegant, sexy fashion images of the 1950s— but has discovered new perspectives through In Focus.
From 200 exhibition items, there are not only 78 original photos (many from Berlin’s Helmut Newton Foundation) but also objects such as first-edition magazines featuring Newton’s work, his passport stamped with a “J” for Jew, and other ephemera loaned from institutions, private collectors and libraries.
“I am personally excited to see a real exploration of his work, charting his life back to the time he spent in Australia, and in Melbourne in particular,” Redstone says. Those beginnings include Newton’s Jewish roots and life in Berlin (he was born Helmut Neustädter), his escape from Germany at the outbreak of World War II, his 1940 internment at Tatura in regional Victoria as an “enemy alien”, and his joining the Australian Army in 1942. It will also cover his post-war life and marriage to actress, artist and photographer June Newton, who worked under the pseudonym ‘Alice Springs’.
“With a great artist of any kind, we tend to know the work they are most famous for and I always think it is interesting to understand how they got to that point and how they defined their ideas, aesthetic or approach,” Redstone says. “That period includes 1946, the year he opened his photographic studio in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. He was working prolifically until French Vogue headhunted him and he moved back to Europe in 1961.”
Helmut Newton: In Focus
Jewish Museum of Australia: Gandel Centre of Judaica
(As part of PHOTO 2022)
29 April—29 January 2023
This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.