It's that I don't like white paper backgrounds. A woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room. — Helmut Newton
Considered the high-heel photographer par excellence, Newton worked with the highest-paid mannequins and extras, but not in the studio, because "A woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives in the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room." Miami, Paris and Beverly Hills were such locations, and Newton reputedly transformed his place of residence, Monte Carlo, into an open-air studio. Yet even more often than at exotic sites, he photographed in familiar surroundings or at places "no farther than three kilometers" from his hotel.
The effect of Newton's brazen nudes and seminudes derives from choice of setting, which frequently evokes a James Bond film, a road movie, thriller, or indeed a soft porno. There is doubtless a frisson in seeing females with cigars, handcuffs, and drawn guns, as if in some movie still, or in a leather corsage, in the role of domina or prostitute. Newton was also partial to the device of contrast, posing his beauties beside backhoes, tractors, or on a ledge above Hoover Dam—Amazons invading a man's world.
Renowned fashion houses commissioned Newton— a "gun for hire," as he jokingly styled himself—to photograph their new collections for the catalogues: Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Thierry Mugler, Blumarine. For other companies he did advertising, carefully respecting his clients' wishes and preferences. This commercial work gave him all the more freedom to do as he liked in his freelancing. Newton also took outstanding portraits, of the Cardins, Ferrés and Versaces, but also of personalities such as Heinrich Harrer, Anthony Hopkins, Leni Riefenstahl.
Alice Springs once photographed her husband Helmut Newton clad only in a blouse, ladies' hat and pumps on the terrace in Monte Carlo, an image that perhaps more than any other attests to the humorously ironic relationship of the master of eroticism to such subjects, and to himself.
Excerpt taken from 50 Photographers You Should Know by Peter Stepan