Legendary Helmut Newton, 83, killed in LA car crash

Jan 23, 2004

Legendary photographer Helmut Newton, 83, died in Los Angeles this afternoon following a single-vehicle car crash. Reports say his 2004 silver Cadillac SRX sped out of control in the driveway of the Chateau Marmont hotel, jumped a curb, and crashed into a low wall and high shrubs across the street. Police spokesperson April Harding said Newton, who was the driver and was alone in the car, was transported by the Los Angeles Fire Department EMS to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he died a short time later.

Harding said it was not known whether Newton was ill before the crash or whether other factors caused the wreck. Photographs of the scene by well-known Los Angeles freelance photographer Ann Johansson, which moved on the Associated Press news wire, show relatively major front-end damage to the vehicle. The pictures show little or no damage to the driver's area or to the passenger compartment much past the dashboard or to any back area of the late-model car.

Police would not comment on whether the vehicle's air bags were, or were not, deployed in the accident, or whether Newton was wearing a seat belt, or answer any other questions about the vehicle other than to say that the accident "is under investigation."

Newspaper reports say that people were walking on the sidewalk in front of the hotel driveway and that Newton's car brushed a photographer heading into the hotel before hitting the wall. Johansson, called on Friday night by News Photographer, confirmed that she is the photographer that Newton's vehicle nearly missed hitting, but she did not want to provide any other information about the incident at this time.

Newton will be remembered for his dramatic and often erotic black and white photographs of nude women. His work has appeared in Vogue, Elle, Playboy, and countless other magazines around the world, as well as in oversized hardbound books and gallery exhibits.

Born in Berlin in 1920, Newton fled the Nazis in 1938 by moving to Singapore and later became an Australian citizen. On October 22, 2003, he donated more than 1,000 of his photographs and his archive to the city of Berlin. News reports at the time quoted Newton as saying, "I'm very proud that my photos are returning to the city where I was born. Not just the nudes, but also the portraits, landscapes and snapshots I love to take." The donated images are scheduled to go on display in a gallery in western Berlin that Newton "fell in love with," he said. Newton financed renovation of the gallery building, which is also to be used to showcase the work of young photographers.

Newton is survived by his photographer wife, June, who works under the name Alice Springs. The Newtons live in Monte Carlo, but they have spent their winters in Los Angeles for more than the past two decades living at the Chateau Marmont. She married Newton in Melbourne, Australia, in 1948 and in 1970 in Paris she became a photographer herself, changing her name to Alice Springs.