“Alice Springs” Eternal with A Sumptuous Photography Retrospective
Photo: Helmut Newton: Yellow Press, Big Zipper II, Milano, 1988, © Helmut Newton Estate.
In 1970, June Newton (b. 1923), wife of the illustrious fashion photographer Helmut Newton, stood in for her husband on a commercial photo shoot in Paris for Gitanes cigarettes, while he was incapacitated by the flu. She took on another name as she explained to Orange Coast magazine in 1987, “because he thought one Newton in the family was enough. And if I didn’t succeed…”
June Newton adopted the name Alice Springs, after blindly stabbing a pin into a map of her native Australia and striking gold. By 1974, she had her first cover with Elle magazine, and from there her career was flourished in fashion and celebrity photography. Her subjects were a virtual who’s who of the time, ranging from Graham Greene, William s. Burroughs, and Anthony Burgess to Catherine Deneuve, Roy Lichtenstein, and Diana Vreeland. In 1978, Alice Springs had her first solo show in Amsterdam, all the while June Newton maintained her day job as art director of her husband’s books and exhibition catalogues.
Together, the couple built an empire, one that has changed the landscape of photography with its enduring combination of edgy aesthetics applied to classical iconography. Theirs was a marriage that was a true partnership, built on mutuality and respect, and so it is natural that Alice Springs would be given her due as an artist and photographer.
In tribute to her work, Museum für Fotografie, Berlin, presents Alice Springs: The MEP Show/ Helmut Newton: Yellow Press / Mart Engelen: Portraits through November 20, 2016, the second retrospective of the artist’s work. Organized by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris, the exhibition includes more than 100 portraits she has made of fellow photographers like Richard Avedon, Braissaï, Ralph Gibson, and Helmut Newton, as well celebrities such Nicole Kidman and Luciano Pavarotti. The portrait work is beautifully complemented by an expansive series of street photographs Alice Springs shot along Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, where she documented the punk and hip-hop scene in the 1980s.
The exhibition also includes a selection of works by Helmut Newton (1920–2004), which reveal his interest in what is best described as “yellow journalism.” From offbeat subjects and paparazzi pictures to police photography and crime stories, Newton first compiled the works featured in Yellow Press in 2002, just two years before his untimely death. Made between 1973-2002, the exhibition is an eclectic mix of drawn from several photo series that were never published in Newton’s books during his lifetime. It is quite an eye-opener, to put it mildly.
Helmut Newton also maintained a wish that a photographer be invited to exhibit in “June’s Room.” Amsterdam-based photographer Mart Engelen presents a selection of black and white inspired by French film noir, featuring contemporary luminaries including writer Michel Houellebecq, visual artists Gilbert & George, and musician Pete Doherty.
Taken a whole, the exhibition speaks to the transcendent power of art and love, and their ability to transform our understanding of the world.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.