In honor of June Newton: award winning actress, photographer, a woman of many names, talents with enormous sensitivity towards her subjects and great admiration (and great inspiration) for her husband.
In Honor of June Newton
Last Saturday, the widow of Helmut Newton, June Newton, died at the age of 97 in her home in Monte Carlo. Under her own name, she designed and published her husband’s art books, but as Alice Springs, she was one of the most sought-after photographers throughout Europe and the US.
June Newton was born in 1923 in Melbourne, Australia, where she studied acting right after school. In 1947 she met Helmut Newton, who fled Germany at the age of 18 as a Jewish refugee and had a photography studio in Melbourne. It barely took the young couple a year to get married. Under the stage name of June Brunell Newton, she successfully acted in Australian theater and starred in the television production of Hedda Gabler. She was honored with the Australian Erik Kuttner Award for Best Theater Actress in 1956. That same year, the Newtons moved to London, where June appeared in another number of television productions. After five years, the couple moved on to Paris.
With the change of address, June also switched careers. She quit acting, turning to drawing and then photography. Her destiny call arrived in 1970 when Helmut Newton was too ill to work on a commercial job for Gitanes Cigarettes and June filled in under her new artist name of Alice Springs. The lucky incident quickly led her to her own jobs behind the camera. Her campaigns for the French hairstylist Jean Louis David opened her doors to renowned fashion publications. In 1974 the first Alice-Springs-Cover adorned French Elle and editorials in Vogue, Marie Claire and Nova were soon to follow. By 1978, she had her first solo exhibition in Amsterdam. What also followed is the type of photography that Alice Springs is most known for today: her intimate portraits of celebrities from the worlds of fashion, art, and entertainment.
As Alice Springs, she published her first photo book in 1983 including portraits of Nicole Kidman, Diana Vreeland, Yves Saint Laurent, Charlotte Rampling, Grace Jones, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Nielsen and many more. What makes her work special is her sensitivity towards her subjects and the ability to capture all those popular figures not as icons, but as human beings. In every shot, which often had a very spontaneous approach, lies each person’s individual aura. No wonder most of Newton’s images were not taken in a studio, but rather in peoples homes and work places.
Alice Springs. Yves Saint Laurent and Hazel, Paris 1978. Alice Springs, courtesy Helmut Newton Foundation.
Alice Springs. Brigitte Nielsen and son, Beverly Hills 1990. Alice Springs, courtesy Helmut Newton Foundation.
While Alice Springs successfully gained international acclaim for her photography, June Newton took on the creative direction of all her husband’s photo books and catalogues and was very much involved in his work (let’s not forget about the iconic image „Self Portrait with Wife and Models“). In 1995 she directed her documentary movie Helmut by June for French TV channel Canal Plus, three years later the couple released their photo book Us and Them that was accompanied by an international exhibition tour. The book included photos the two took of each other, self-portraits and individuals photographs of Gianni Versace, Karl Lagerfeld and more, allowing readers to do a compare-and-contrast.
After her husband’s death in 2004 June Newton became president of the Helmut Newton Foundation and completed the renovations of the former „Offizierskasino“ in Berlin into a photography museum. The same summer the foundation opened its doors to the public. Ever Newton has been the driving force in the development of exhibition concepts and turned the museum into an internationally acclaimed and unique institution.
We appreciate the great talent and striving dedication of a woman who successfully worked up her way to international acclaim and celebrated and supported the work of her famous husband without letting herself be outshined.
Text: Ann-Kathrin Mercedes Lietz
Images: Courtesy Helmut Newton Foundation