Cover image of the review
Installation view, HELMUT NEWTON: In Focus, Jewish Museum of Australia. Photo: Marie-Luise Skibbe.


21 May 2022
Jewish Museum of Australia 29 Apr - 29 Jan 2023

Unlike most of the tedious PHOTO 2022 program, crammed with twee mises-en-scène and endless autobiographical snapshots, HELMUT NEWTON: In Focus is genuinely interesting. Newton is the blueprint for twentieth-century fashion photography: supermodels trussed by luxury commodities in hotel rooms or perfectly-formed nudes in industrial cityscapes, almost always in creamy monochrome. He is the master of producing sophisticated art images through harnessing commercial constraints. This modest but comprehensive exhibition, held at the Jewish Museum of Australia in St Kilda, shows a sizable selection of Newton’s silver gelatin prints interspersed with archival materials that tell the story of the photographer’s little-known years in Australia. The photographs are darkly erotic (sometimes to the point of kitsch). The social history component of the exhibition is fascinating—a twenty-year-old German-Jewish emigré shunted into a rural Victorian internment camp as an “enemy alien” becomes the preeminent photographer of the postwar Melbourne fashion industry, then promptly leaves. Who knew that every microblogger’s favourite fetishist started out as a Flinders Lane art bro?

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