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Meet Mr Newton (Not the Scientist)

Icon: Photographer Helmut Newton and wife June did not feel at home in west London

Fulham won’t have seen anything like him, Helmut Newton, the late German photographer renowned for his provocative nude photographs of models over four decades. ONgallery is showing and offering 24 of his vintage prints for sale in a three-day pop-up show in this west London neighbourhood more famous as the home of Chelsea Football Club.

The flat was a four-flight walk-up and, together with Earl’s Court Road, was the most depressing sight I’d ever seen.HELMUT NEWTON

London photography enthusiasts must count themselves lucky for such a rare opportunity as Newton was not very enamoured with the city. As he recounted in his autobiography: “London was awful – I just suffered.” He had come to work for Vogue in 1957 staying with his actress wife, June, in a dingy flat on the Earl’s Court Road. His first impressions: “The flat was a four-flight walk-up and, together with Earl’s Court Road, was the most depressing sight I’d ever seen.” The experience scarred him so much that he had to break his contract and flee to Paris. Fast-forward 58 years and his black and white nude prints have become collectors’ items selling for thousands of pounds with originals in private collections.

The prints in the vintage collection shot during the 70s and early 80s include Charlotte Rampling and Jerry Hall and were gifted to Norman Solomon, a professional agent in recognition for the work he had done for Newton in promoting his Private Property series of exhibitions in 1985.

Born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1920, Newton was described by New York Times  as a “prolific, widely imitated fashion photographer whose provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos were a mainstay of Vogue and other publications”.

Controversy has routinely followed Newton’s photography. Critics have denounced him for reducing female sexuality to naked bodies and for voyeuristically exhibiting women’s intimacy, but he has always insisted that he adored women and that his photographs portrayed female power and strength. – BB

Vintage Newton, ONgallery, 25 Effie Road, Fulham Broadway, SW6 1E, 26 – 28 November 2015.

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