Helmut Newton Pics


In researching Cultural Value’s North Shore documentary project, I stumbled across a collection of photographs taken by renown German/Australian photographer Helmut Newton.

It seems Helmut Newton was commissioned by Royal Dutch Shell to photograph the construction of its North Shore oil refinery in 1953. Newton, German by birth, was interned by British authorities while in Singapore, and was sent to Australia on board the Queen Mary, arriving in Sydney on 27 September 1940.

Newton is best known for his fashion photography with the likes of French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. And here I quote Wikipedia: “He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylized scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts.” Indeed. Not a lot of that going on in the Shell photographs I have to say, not unless you’re really into exposed piping.

A treasure trove of his photographs of Shell’s construction is available to view and download is available from the State Library of Victoria’s collection.

Woman sealing barrels of Shell Talpa oil.30, at Shell Oil Refinery, Geelong. Helmut Newton, ca. 1953-61.

Unloading and positioning of absorber tower prior to installation, Shell Refinery, Geelong. Helmut Newton, ca. 1953.

Hand in Focus, holding seeds. Helmut Newton, ca. 1952-58

J. H. Velders, Managing Director, Shell Refining (Aust.), Helmut Newton ca. 1952-58.


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