In a new release from Taschen, Melbourne-born June Newton is rightly celebrated for her unique canon of work. The book coincides with a major retrospective at The Helmut Newton foundation in Berlin, previously shown at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. In honour of the photographer, The Culture Trip surveys her compelling portraits of life in 1980’s L.A.
Having married legendary photographer Helmut Newton in 1948, it wasn’t until he fell sick in 1970 that his wife, June, took up her pivotal position behind the lens. After covering for her husband on the Gitanes cigarette commercial, June Newton adopted the moniker Alice Springs, and launched her own successful career. Springs began by shooting commercials for the major fashion magazines, counting Vogue and Marie Claire as clients. However, it was in portraiture that her unique eye was established.
Helmut Newton and friends
In Alice Springs: MEP Paris, we see a portfolio which covers the upper echelons of the international 1980’s social set. From Bruce Weber and Helmut joking around in Miami in 1999 to striking portraits of Arianna Huffington, hands held across her chest in the late 1980s. Packed with well-known faces, one stumbles upon a striking picture of Audrey Hepburn staring down the barrel on the lens, her eyebrows arched high and sublime eyes that hold the viewer’s gaze almost 30 years on. What unites these diverse portraits is how relaxed the subjects are. Springs ensures key personality identifiers – David Bailey’s hat, Graham Green’s starched white shirt – inform a sense of character without feeling contrived. As Helmut Newton commented, “I don’t know of anyone else who takes the same kind of portraits. No doubt there are great portraitists working today whose work is more weighty, but hers seems to have a unique quality. Her pictures of people are totally innocent.”
Prominent NY Women and Melrose Avenue
In her series, ‘Prominent NY Women’ subjects are juxtaposed against their homes. The photographs imbue these women with a majestic style akin to a Velazquez portrait, complete with lashings of pearls and well-loved dogs. Her more candid portraits of punk style on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue provide an interesting contrast. With her signature Springs flair, she documents the decadent hairstyles, ripped jeans, gothic lace and heavily studded leather jackets that pervaded punk culture at the time. The photographs become portraits of place, immortalising the zeitgeist.
Alice Springs. The Paris MEP Show, Taschen, £34.99
First published on The Culture Trip, 5 September