A onetime muse of the photographer shares her pictures and memories of wine, romance, and one scary sex toy.
Late great fashion photographer Helmut Newton, who died in a car accident in January 2004 at age 83, spent the better part of his career photographing beautiful women for the world’s top fashion magazines. Sleek black and white “big nudes,” as he called them, were his specialty. So if Newton spent long days at the studio photographing statuesque women in stiletto heels, how did the old man spend his nights? Shooting big nudes, apparently.
These never-before-seen black and white photographs—originally intended as personal mementos—were taken by Newton during a three-part series of private photo shoots spanning the late 1990s.
The buxom model, an eccentric Manhattan party fixture named Stephanie Parker, approached Radar about printing them in tribute to her departed friend.
Parker first met Newton and his wife June in Newton’s adopted homeland, Monaco, at the 1988 Grand Prix. After years of intermittent contact, Newton called Parker in 1996 from the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in Manhattan. He had a proposal. “I know you’ve always wanted me to photograph you,” he said. “What are you doing tonight?”
Parker hurried over to the hotel. The two of them drank red wine and dined together. Then, at Newton’s suggestion, she changed into some light bondage gear while he clicked away.
When the night was over, Newton did an unusual thing—particularly for a man who once told me he had considered treating his negatives with a special solution so that they would go brown after use. He took a Sherry-Netherland envelope, scribbled processing instructions on the front, slipped in the used rolls, and handed it to Parker. “These are gifts for you. But I know you’ll use them in the right way,” he told her.
He then slipped her $100, ostensibly for cab fare. Parker felt the gesture was a little odd. “He seemed to have this attraction to thinking he was in a bordello,” she says.
Over the next three years the pair did two more private shoots, including one back in Monaco costarring Parker’s friend Dominique and a double-headed dildo. Parker didn’t like those so much.
“The most romantic time was at the Sherry-Netherland,” she says. “The other two weren’t quite as pretty.”
Pretty, no. But we did have to laugh when, at the bottom of a contact sheet featuring Parker with a riding crop, we came across five images of … Tina Brown. The photos are from the second shoot—not a dildo in sight!—and she’s perched over a cup of tea at Cipriani in New York City. Brown doesn’t remember the date, but swears her old friend Helmut must have just been finishing a roll.
A number of years ago I asked June Newton how it felt to be the wife of somebody whose photography is so rooted in sex and seduction. “I’ll tell you what,” she said. “It feels absolutely marvelous being the wife of somebody who makes such powerful erotic work. I was only worried once in my life, and that was when he started to photograph flowers.”
So it never caused you any grief?
“No, no, no. He was photographing the girls when I met him, and I hope that he continues until the day he dies.”