She was much more that just the woman behind her world-famous and notorious husband, Helmut Newton; and referring to her as “the woman at his side” in no way meant that she was satisfied with a secondary role either. In 1947, when she met Newton in Melbourne, she was already a busy actress, who performed under the pseudonym, June Brunell. She was born June Browne in the Australian city on June 3, 1923, completed her training as an actor there, and worked in theatre and as a model in front of the camera: it was an assignment for a pullover commercial that brought June and Helmut together. He had fled Berlin because of the Nazis, and had landed in Melbourne where he ran a photo studio. They got married in 1948. In 1956, she was awarded Australia's Erik Kuttner Award for Best Theatre Actress – but the couple then moved to London the same year, as Helmut began to work there for British Vogue. In 1961 they went on to Paris, where the photographer's career continued to blossom.
June supported Helmut's work as adviser and muse, but also – according to legend – became a photographer herself, purely by chance: because her husband had gone down with the flu, she spontaneously took over a lucrative commercial assignment. Of course, the pictures were published under his name, but the foundations had been laid, and further commissions were to follow. Apparently, the idea to use Alice Springs as a pseudonym under which her pictures were published, came through a friend. He had opened an atlas on the map of Australia, and June randomly pricked a pin in Alice Springs, in the middle of the continent. Already by 1974, one of her pictures had made it to the cover of French Elle, and her work began to be published regularly in all the most important fashion magazines. With commercial photography and, above all, celebrity portraits, the following years would see her establish her own, independent career in photography. In contrast to her husband, she relied less on breaking taboos and on scandals, and was more interested in the people she portrayed.
Even so, June remained her husband's closest advisor and confidante, dealing with his books and exhibition catalogues, in the role of Art Director, Curator and also publisher. The couple also produced joint projects, including, among others, the photo book Us and Them (1998). She published her autobiography, Mrs Newton, in 2004. Helmut died the same year and, in addition to her job as President of the Helmut Newton Foundation, she took over and completed a project they had initiated and primarily financed: the transformation of the former officers' mess at the Bahnhof Zoo into a photography museum. An exhibition there in honour of her centenary in 2023 has already been announced, as all her negatives, contact sheets, photographs and biographical material has been stored in Berlin for some time.
June Newton passed away of April 9, in her adopted home of Monaco. The burial is due to take place at the Friedenau Cemetery in Berlin, next to her husband's urn. (Ulrich Rüter)