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Autobiography Hardcover – September 16, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Famous for his decadent photography, Newton shares his life and times in a tell-all that reveals as much about his narcissism as his artistry. A German Jew whose family was ruined by the Nazis, Newton, born in 1920, has lived an exciting and terrifying life. The product of a privileged Berlin childhood, he bought his first camera at 12 and was hooked. Apprenticed to Yva, a noted fashion photographer, Helmut learned his craft, all the while dreaming of becoming a photographer for Vogue. But once the Nuremberg Laws were passed, coupled with the horrors of Kristallnacht, his family fled. Young Helmut went to Singapore; his parents sailed to South America. This rupture forced him into an independent, nomadic existence that continued throughout his life. A handsome, dashing figure, he is honest about his tenure as a gigolo, his time in an Australian prison camp (holding an expired German passport meant he was considered an enemy alien), his years in the Australian army and his ongoing passion for photography. Proposing to his wife, June, he warned her: "My work will always come first." His big break came in 1961, when he joined French Vogue. Newton was renowned for his erotic, risqu‚ shots of models and nudes recalling the racy cabarets of his youth. In 1976, he published White Women, a controversial book that established him as the agent provocateur of fashion photography. So distinct were Newton's images, they became a Vogue hallmark. His autobiography recounts everything from his numerous affairs to his artistic inspirations. It is a remarkably candid and revealing look at the man behind the camera.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A woman kneels on a bed wearing a saddle. An elegant nude leans on a cane, her neck in a surgical collar, one leg in a thigh-high cast. These are the sort of disturbing yet sexy images that made photographer Helmut Newton famous. The sultan of glossy erotica now tells his genuinely amazing and entertaining life story, decoding, along the way, the iconography of his stylishly risque oeuvre. The spoiled son of wealthy Berlin Jews, he was equally passionate about girls and photography, and lucky to escape Nazi Germany at age 18. He found refuge in Singapore, where he lived well as a gigolo, then was shipped to Australia, where he was drafted by the army and got married. Given his unabashed chronicling of carefree sexual exploits, his happy marriage and his wife's essential role in his work come as a pleasant surprise. Blunt about his sexuality, self-centeredness, and driving ambition, and generous in his chronicling of his radical approach to fashion photography, Newton is a beguiling and provocative autobiographer clearly grateful for his fabulous good fortune. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (September 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385508077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385508070
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Helmut Newton (1920-2004) was one of the most influential fashion photographers of all time. Born in Berlin, he arrived in Australia in 1940 and married June Brunell (a.k.a. Alice Springs) eight years later. He first achieved international fame in the 1970's while working principally for French Vogue, and his celebrity and influence grew over the decades. Newton preferred to shoot in streets or interiors, rather than studios. Controversial scenarios, bold lighting, and striking compositions came to form his signature look. In 1990 he was awarded the Grand Prix National for photography; in 1992 the German government awarded him Das Grosse Verdienstkreuz for services to German culture, and he was appointed Officer des Arts, Lettres et Sciences by S.A.S. Princess Caroline of Monaco. In 1996, he was appointed Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French Minister of Culture.

Working and living in close companionship with his wife until his death at 83, his images remain as distinctive, seductive and original as ever.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Helmut Newton since I was about 13 when, Woody Allenish, I miraculously happened upon his pictures of women. Unfortunately this book captures none of the excitement those pictures generate. He tells of growing up in Nazi Germany, his escape to China and his move to Australia. He also shares many (and there are many to share) of his sexual exploits. The problem I had, is if you take the pictures out of the book, it could almost be about anybody with an overactive libido (or imagination). All-in-all it is a gossipy read and amusing at that level but with very little to indicate what makes Newton's photographs some of the most recognizable around. If you're thinking about this book because you know his work, consider one of the books containing his photographs instead.
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Format: Hardcover
There are probably very few human beings who live life, as Tennyson would say, to the lees and on their own terms. If we are to believe him in this very readable autobiography, Helmut Newton is one of them. He has always listened to his own drummer and has walked away from assignments that lesser individuals would have been afraid to leave. A lover of both beautiful women and fast cars, he names names although he does say that some of the names have been changed to protect people's privacy.
I'm a great admirer of Mr. Newton so I read this chatty memoir with relish. Born in Berlin of Jewish parents, he has lived in and travelled to many places in his career as a fashion photographer. Although obviously a perfectionist when it comes to his art, Mr. Newton doesn't appear to take himself too seriously, a great attribute for one so talented as he.
Mr. Newton's life has not always been fun and games, however. He understands the horrors of Nazi Germany from first-hand experience and spent time during World War II in an internment camp for Nazis in Australia because he was a German. Never mind that he was a despised Jew and hated Hitler as much as the Allies did.
The last third of the book is entitled "Part II: The Photographs." Here Newton shows and discusses many of his now easily recognizable images. There is no particular order to this section. There is one photograph that he calls "pornographic", in case you are interested. And we learn that he hates the PR people who surround famous actresses. I doubt that anyone would be suprised to learn that tidbit.
If you are looking for a good collection of Newton's work, you should buy any of the books that are collections of his fine photographs printed on high quality paper.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading the author's recollections, even though sometimes I wondered if they were wishful thinking (find it hard to believe that a 21 year old woman would be interested in a 14 year old boy - re: the bus story).
The only annoying part was having to constantly switch to the back of the book to read the photo illustrations.
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Format: Hardcover
Like most people I suppose, I knew Helmut Newton only through his Fashion-Bordering-on-Pornographic brand of High Fashion and nude Photographs. His autobiography tells how he was born into a wealthy German Jewish family that eventually lost everything they owned to the Nazi's. He grew up observing the rise of Hitler and his brownshirted thugs.He saw some of his school friends turn into blood thirsty fiends. He grew to fear them more than those he did not know personallly. It's interesting to hear him describe just what being a Jew in Berlin was like during the period and why he and his family didn't flee the obvious threat until it was almost too late. Newton obviously gets a kick out of describing his early and numerous sexual conquests as well as his survival working as a nomadic gigolo in Singapore in order to remain there during his escape from Hilter's hunter-killers. He describes his early experiences with photography which were surprisingly dull and rather uninteresting. He describes in loving detail his fascinations with Berlin brothels as well as those along his around-the-world escape route from the Nazi's. He was both lucky, not only in escaping the Germans, but with women and his choice of a a lifelong mate June. I particularly liked his use of very realistic department store dummies, carefully made up by his usual fashion model make up people, for one famous series of nudes.I was also fascinated that he was able to work out an agreement with his various employers to allow him to use the regular models and assistants from his normal fashion shoots for his own photographsl while they were still on the publication's payroll. The book is full of interesting material including what has become of his life's work and how it is being preserved. The book is a good read.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This isn't a book about how to photograph, how to photograph like Helmut Newton, nor even about how Helmut Newton approaches photography. It's about what Helmut Newton experienced as a youth and young man.

He openly admits to being narcissitic; it shows clearly in the text. Nearly every sentence is about him - what happened to him, his reaction to his surroundings. Very little introspection or sympathy towards others. Yet I felt an honesty in his writing - a frankness that was refreshing. No apologies, no excuses.

The language is surprisingly coarse for one who created such sophisticated images. Unsurprisingly, a substantial portion of the narrative deals with his sexual interactions with others, again, in a frank and unapologetic manner. Not, I think, an attempt to sensationalize his story - merely, an important component of his life.

There is no attempt to explain his art, nor to rationalize his muse in terms of his childhood. Anyone looking for such will be disappointed. However, I found it a fascinating, albeit too brief, glimpse into his origins. I don't know if it's made me "understand" Helmut Newton's work any better, but I did enjoy the read.
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