Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

Famed photographer dies in crash

Helmut Newton known for striking, black-and-white ‘Big Nudes’

January 24, 2004

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— Acclaimed fashion photographer Helmut Newton died Friday after his car sped out of control from the driveway of the famed Chateau Marmont hotel and crashed into a wall, police said. He was 83.

Newton, whose work appeared in magazines such as Playboy, Elle and Vogue, was best known for his stark, black-and-white nude photos of women.

Newton apparently lost control of his Cadillac while leaving the Hollywood hotel, said Officer April Harding, a police spokeswoman. It was unclear whether Newton had become ill while driving.

People were on the sidewalk in front of the driveway, and the car brushed a photographer heading into the hotel before colliding with the wall.

Newton was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died a short time later, Harding said.

Newton was a trailblazer in the fashion photography world, exploring power, gender roles and an icy sexuality in his pictures.

His trademark "Big Nudes" series featured larger-than-life, black-and-white images of women that portray them as dominating the camera rather than as subjects.

Among the beautiful and powerful people Newton has photographed were Paloma Picasso, Pierre Cardin, Naomi Campbell, Jean-Marie Le Pen and Claudia Schiffer.

While Newton also photographed clothed celebrities and nature scenes, he favored photographing women, usually while they wore little more than high heels.

"He was a giant," said Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. "He was a major talent that pushed the boundaries in terms of photography and influenced many, many other photographers in following generations."

The German-born photographer, who was Jewish, fled his homeland for Singapore in December 1938, a month after Nazi-led persecution programs began. He eventually settled in Australia and became a citizen, then took up residence in Monte Carlo, overlooking the Mediterranean -- a frequent backdrop for his nude images.

In October, he donated more than 1,000 pictures to a new gallery in Berlin, his birthplace, saying he was "proud" his work would now be on display in his hometown.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called Newton's decision a "sign of reconciliation."

"You can chase a man out of his home but you can't rip his home out of his soul," Schroeder said in a letter read at the news conference announcing the donation.

Newton is survived by his wife, June, who works under the name Alice Springs. She was also a favorite subject for the photographer. In one 1973 series of photos, she was portrayed as Hitler wearing a cropped mustache, with model Jerry Hall posing as Eva Braun. The Newtons had no children.

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