Who is June Newton?
June Newton, née Browne, is an actress, director, writer, and photographer from Australia. As an actress, she used the professional name, June Brunell. After beginning her career as a photographer, she began using the pseudonym Alice Springs. She is a Melbourne native; not much is known about her family and upbringing. She had already begun her career as an actress when she met fashion photographer Helmut Newton in 1947. They exchanged wedding vows a year later. In the next few years, she found significant success both on the stage and screen, winning the Erik Kuttner Award for Best Actress in 1956. She relocated to UK with her husband in 1957 and did some work for the BBC. By 1960, they had finally made a home for themselves in Paris. It was there in 1970 that she did her first photographic work as a replacement for her husband. In the ensuing years, her photographs were featured in publications like ‘Vanity Fair,’ ‘Interview,’ ‘Elle’ and ‘Vogue.’ In 1995, she released a movie on her and Helmut’s life together, titled ‘Helmut by June’.
Childhood & Early Life
June Newton was born June Browne on June 3, 1923, in Melbourne, Australia. Little information is available on her family and upbringing.
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In the mid-1940s, Browne was working as an actress in Melbourne under the professional name June Brunell, as there was another actress named June Browne in the local entertainment scene at the time. She did some modelling work at Helmut Newton’s studio. After their marriage, she continued to act and became quite successful both on stage and screen. In 1956, she became the recipient of that year’s Erik Kuttner Award, which is given for contribution to theatre in Melbourne. While she was living in UK, she worked in some BBC productions.
Life With Helmut Newton & Photography
Browne and Helmut’s first meeting occurred in 1947 at his studio in Melbourne. He was in the city for work, having left his native Germany in 1938, after spending a brief period in a concentration camp. They tied the knot in 1948.
After Helmut signed a year-long contract with ‘British Vogue,’ the couple relocated to London in 1957. However, Helmut didn’t like it there, and they moved again. Helmut’s photographs were featured in publications like ‘Jardin des Modes’ and ‘Australian Vogue.’ By 1960, the couple had made Paris their home.
June Newton's career as a photographer began by chance. Helmut was supposed to take photographs of a model for an ad for Gitanes cigarettes when he started demonstrating various flu-related symptoms. Instead of cancelling the photo shoot as he was not able to contact the model, he asked June to step in and taught her how to handle a camera. She subsequently began using the pseudonym Alice Springs, a pun on a hot, remote barren town of the same name in Australia, as a photographer. The name was picked by blinding pushing a pin into an Australian map.
By 1974, one of her photographs had been featured in the ‘Elle’ magazine. Her photographs have since been featured in ‘Vogue,’ ‘Elle,’ ‘Marie Claire,’ ‘Vanity Fair,’ ‘Interview,’ and ‘Stern.’ Although she was initially a fashion photographer like her husband, she later became a celebrated portraitist. She has taken memorable photographs of such public figures as William S. Burroughs, Anthony Burgess, Catherine Deneuve, Graham Greene, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Mapplethorpe, Christopher Reeve, Diana Vreeland, Yves Saint Laurent, Brigitte Nielsen, and Nicole Kidman.
Alongside her career as a photographer, she served as her husband’s art-director, working both as an editor and curator for his work. She was also the subject of several of his photographs.
June had gifted her husband a video camera for Christmas. He never displayed any interest in it. One day, she picked it up and started filming their life together. The couple resided in Paris for 27 years before relocating to Monte Carlo, spending their winters in Los Angeles. She recorded every important moment of their lives, from candid to professional. This eventually became the documentary, ‘Helmut by June’, which was shown in 1995. After film director Brett Ratner saw it, he added some additional footage and released it in America. Ratner’s version was broadcast for the first time on Cinemax on April 30, 2007.
Helmut was killed in a vehicular accident in Los Angeles, on January 23, 2004, at the age of 83. They did not have any children. In June that year, The Helmut Newton Foundation was launched in Berlin. It is a permanent part of Berlin’s Museum of Photography. The building, in which the museum is housed, is located right beside the station from which Helmut took a train during his departure from Berlin in 1938. Before Helmut’s death, the Newtons were organizing the inaugural ceremony for the foundation. During the opening, June and Helmut's portraits from their joint 1999 publication, ‘Us and Them’ (Scalo), were shown.
Throughout her career, June has published several books, including ‘Alice Springs: Portraits’ (Twelvetrees Press, 1986) and ‘Mrs. Newton’ (Taschen, 2004).