A Legend. An Icon.

by Danilo Brunetti

An exhibition of the works of one of the greatest portrait photographers of all time hits the city. Tiffany Parks shares a preview.

The photographic achievements of the inimitable Helmut Newton take center stage in a new retrospective at the Ara Pacis Museum this month. On 6 October, Helmut Newton: Legacy opens to mark the centenary of the renowned photographer’s birth with more than 250 images on display exploring his unparalleled artistry, style, and provocation.

White Women

The exhibit traces the entirety of Newton’s long career, presenting iconic photographs alongside lesser-known gems. Notably, a focus is placed on his groundbreaking fashion photography, inspired by the cinematic visions of Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, and Federico Fellini. Contact prints, special publications, and archival materials invite visitors to delve deep into Newton’s creative process.

The exhibit unfolds over chronological sections, unveiling Newton’s evolving life and career, showcasing images that have become indelible parts of our collective visual memory, including the famous Big Nudes series. Visitors take a true journey through the iconic looks of the past century, beginning in 1940s Australia and traveling through 1950s Europe, 1960s France, 1970s America, and the 1980s between Monte Carlo and Los Angeles, culminating in global fashion assignments from the 1990s to the twilight of his career. Also on display is a special selection of images shot by Newton in Rome and never before seen in any other exhibition.

These fashion photographs capture the ephemeral yet intense atmosphere that only Newton could conjure, merging the allure of the Eternal City with the subjects chosen to embody his unique vision. Throughout his six-decade career, Newton continuously fascinated and challenged audiences with his complex exploration of femininity, defying all categorization. His subjects exude self-awareness, subtle irony, and a defiant attitude, all without descending into vulgarity or banality. “My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, to divert, and to entertain,” were his immortal and prescient words.

From 6 October. arapacis.it