June Newton, the Australian-born, globetrotting portrait photographer, died at her home in Monte Carlo on Saturday, according to a report by the Associated Press. Under her own name she worked on the design and publication of art books of her husband, Helmut Newton, but as Alice Springs she was one of the most sought-after photographers in Europe and the United States. She was 97.
Newton was born June Brown in Melbourne, Australia, in 1923, and studied acting. In 1947 she met Helmut Newton, a Jewish refugee who fled Germany at 18, who had a photography studio in Melbourne. The pair married in the following year. She took the stage name June Brunelle and had success in Australian theater. The couple moved to London in the mid-1950s, and June appeared in a number of television productions. The Newtons would return to Melbourne, and June starred in an Australian television production of Hedda Gabler. In 1958 she won the Erik Kuttner Award, a regional acting prize.
In the early 1960s the pair moved to France. June quit acting and turned to painting while her husband’s star began to rise. Destiny called one day in 1970 when, with Helmut too ill with the flu to work a commercial job for Gitanes cigarettes, June filled in under the nom de guerre Alice Springs. (The name is an inside joke for Australians, as it is also the name of a town in the Northern Territory.) She quickly began booking her own gigs, first for hair salons, and then glossy magazines. By 1978 she had her first solo exhibition in Amsterdam.
As Alice Springs, Newton photographed a string of celebrities from the world of fashion, art, and entertainment (including Nicole Kidman, Diana Vreeland, Yves Saint Laurent, William S. Burroughs, Charlotte Rampling, Grace Jones, and Audrey Hepburn to name but a few), and also captured scenes of public life.
Newton got her best work outside of the studio, often meeting celebrities at their home. As Rhonda Garelick wrote in a 2019 essay for The Cut, she made her subjects “look like people, not icons.”
June was also part of her husband’s work. This 1981 image, which the provocative artist known to push boundaries of sexual explicitness called “Self Portrait with Wife and Models,” very much speaks for itself. In 1998 the pair published the book Us and Them, in which the two took photos of one another, and individually photographed models like Catherine Deneuve, Gianni Versace, and Karl Lagerfeld, allowing readers to do a compare-and-contrast.
In 2004, the year of her husband’s death, June Newton opened the Helmut Newton Foundation in a “former Prussian officer’s casino” in Berlin. In 2007, she directed the documentary Helmut by June, which aired on HBO.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— The Shockingly Melancholy Britney Spears Doc You’ve Never Heard Of
— R.O. Kwon’s Letter to Asian Women Whose Hearts Are Still Breaking
— Angelina Jolie Offers to Testify Against Brad Pitt in Drawn-Out Divorce
— The 14 Best Retinol Products for a Skin Reboot
— A British Constitution Expert Explains Why the Royals Are Trapped
— Cracking the Case of London’s Acrobatic Rare-Book Thieves
— How a Jurassic Park Roller Coaster Got Attacked by Actual Raptors
— From the Archive: The Ominous Signs in Ted Ammon’s East Hampton Murder
— Serena Williams, Michael B. Jordan, Gal Gadot, and more are coming to your favorite screen April 13–15. Get your tickets to Vanity Fair’s Cocktail Hour, Live! here.