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Culture

"Like a Farmer and his Potatoes"

In the exhibition “Sex and Landscapes”, world acclaimed German-born photographer Helmut Newton shows both his monumental images of naked women and a collection of relatively unknown still lives and landscapes.

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He has a passion for cars too: Helmut Newton with one of his famous nudes

Helmut Newton’s travelling exhibition “Sex and Landscapes - New and Unknown Works” opens on Tuesday in the Gallery Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf, just in time for the release of his autobiography this month and his 82nd birthday on October 31.

The exhibition, curated by Newton's wife June, shows 20 large format black and white photos, many which haven't yet appeared in print. In addition, the photographer has added pictures of still lives and landscapes to his repertoire -- including images from his birthplace, Berlin.

From Germany to Australia

Newton is regarded as one of the most important fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century. Born to a Jewish-German button magnate and an American in Berlin in 1920, he began learning his trade from the renowned fashion photographer Yva in 1936. Two years later Newton and his family fled Nazi Germany. The 18-year old made his way alone to Australia via Singapore and took part in World War II on the side of his newly-adopted country.

After the war Newton set up a studio in Melbourne and first published his photos in Australian Vogue in 1952. By 1961 he was spending most of his time shooting fashion in Paris. Later, in 1981, Newton “retired” to Monaco to devote himself to portrait and commercial photography.

Controversial Amazons

Since turning to photographing mainly nudes in the 1980s Newton has frequently stirred up controversy with his images of naked Amazons, often gleaming with oil as they engage in banal activities. Newton’s nudes are known for what is often regarded as cold eroticism.

In response to the numerous critics who accuse Newton of objectifying the opposite sex, the photographer insists that he shows women as strong personalities, not as victims. "I am a feminist," Newton recently told the German magazine Stern.

Newton also claims his images don’t hide any messages. “You can drill as long as you want, but you won’t find anything on the inside,” he has maintained on many occasions.

"Boring Hollywood bimbos"

Newton's autobiography, which came out this month, ends abruptly in 1982.

"What should I have written about the last 20 years?" The photographer commented to Stern. "I got to know a lot of insanely boring Hollywood bimbos. I earn a little more money than I used to. And I only fly first class now so I can stretch my legs. Otherwise nothing has happened."

A farmer with his potatoes

Queried about whether June, Newton's art director and wife since 1947, was plagued by jealousy thanks to her husband's work, Newton told the Stern, "My wife knows that I look at models like a farmer looks at his potatoes."

The exhibition in Düsseldorf runs until November 31.