Australian News

Australian news and media publication

From Germany to Australia and the world – The Australian Jewish News

Helmut Newton first picked up a camera at the age of 12 and he never looked back.

Born to a Jewish family in Berlin, he worked for the German photographer Yva from 1936. But then war took over. For the Neustädter (Newton’s original surname) family, Kristallnacht was the turning point, forcing the family to flee. His parents found their way to Argentina. Newton, aged 18, reached Singapore and was able to stay there and work as a portrait photographer.

After being interned by British authorities in Singapore, he was sent to Australia in 1940 and was interned at the Tatura camp in Victoria for almost two years.

Newton’s fascinating life is captured in the exhibition Helmut Newton: In Focus, showing at the Jewish Museum of Australia, presented in partnership with the Helmut Newton Foundation and in collaboration with PHOTO 2022.

“We focus on his life journey, the beginnings of his life up to the point where he leaves Melbourne and he becomes this global superstar in the world of fashion photography,” explained Eleni Papavasileiou, Jewish Museum of Australia senior curator and collections manager.

“His story is one that is intrinsically linked to the Jewish experience. He was a member of the community here. And we also want to show how his work, his activity, his life in Melbourne was so significant, and how it contributed to the work that he created after he left Australia in the 1960s.”

Newton went on to photograph countless high-profile women including Grace Jones, Isabella Rossellini, Claudia Schiffer, and even Margaret Thatcher. His photographs appeared in leading international fashion magazines with more than 60 covers for Vogue Italia attributed to him.

But the connection to his history and to Australia was never lost. And this is what Helmut Newton: In Focus hopes to show.

Papavasileiou points to the connection with the shmatte business which is so intrinsically linked to the Jewish community.

“His connection to the fashion trade and the shmatte business is one that makes it really relevant to the story of Australia overall,” she said.

Sigourney Weaver on the Warner Bros. Lot, Burbank 1983.
Photo: Helmut Newton.

“He captured a lot of the fashion names of the time – Hartnell of Melbourne and House of Lucas, Sportscraft – all with Jewish connections.”

The exhibition is an immersive one, with more than 200 objects and images on display delving into how his roots influenced who he became.

“Even though he was not somebody who considered himself a religious man, his life was shaped in the way it was because he was Jewish,” Papavasileiou said.

“We want people to be surprised by what they find out. How Berlin and his Jewish upbringing helped build his visual language, and how that influenced his photography and led to the provocative and curious work that he created later.”

Describing the exhibition as a “feast for the eyes” with thought-provoking imagery, Papavasileiou said the ultimate hope is that people want to discover more about the young boy raised in Berlin, who became the provocative man behind the lens.

Helmut Newton: In Focus is on until January 29, 2023. Book tickets

Get The AJN Newsletter by email and never miss our top stories

Free Sign Up

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.