The globetrotting photography exhibit, “Three Boys From Pasadena: A Tribute to Helmut Newton,” has finally come home to where it all began for the summer: The Pasadena Art Center. The show features the photographs of Helmut Newton protégés Mark Arbeit, George Holz, and Just Loomis, exploring both their individual talents and their longstanding friendship with Newton—and each other. TREATS! sits down with the three Newtonites to discuss the brilliance of the man, what they learned from him & and how to make it as a young photographer today. by Rob Hill
What were your first impressions of Helmut?
MARK ARBEIT: I thought Helmut was the coolest guy but he was very critical in his critique of our work. He would treat us as equals, though, because he saw in us the same love for photography.
JUST LOOMIS: I first met him at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He was mysterious and reserved and very European.
GEORGE HOLZ: Very charismatic, great style, funny, and a very strong POV.
How long did you work for him?
MA: On and off for 12 years—but stayed friends for 25 years.
JL: Each winter for 3 months for a total of five years and then off and on until he passed away in 2004.
GH: On and off for about 2 years.
In terms of your style, what did you learn most from him?
MA: On a fashion shoot, Helmut would always tell me to pay close attention to the clothes—every detail. He would say, “Never forget why you’re there.”
JL: I learned to look towards my roots for inspiration. I always asked him for the “answer” and he would shrug and say, “Do what inspires you.”
GH: Love of the mid-day sun and how it sculpts the body. And, of course, strong black and white images.
Helmut always said that he saw the world in a bit of a ‘twisted’ way….and he always used to say, ‘Do what inspires you.’” — Just Loomis
Was he the kind of guy that gave you advice?
MA: I would learn so much from just watching Helmut work: How he directed the model, make-up & hair. He had a strong opinion how everything should look. If I had a question about anything, Helmut would take the time to answer it.
JL: Being around him was more instructive in the long run, I think, than actual advice. It was Helmut’s sense of the world; his personal taste that was so interesting.
GH: He did give a lot of advice—the bar at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel became our classroom after shoots. I also learned a lot through osmosis…just being around him.
When you set out to become a photographer what were some of the first assignments you got?
MA: While I was still attending Art Center I started working for a store in Beverly Hills called Lina Lee. The first big assignment, however, was to shoot for Harper’s Bazaar.
JL: Casino brochures in Reno, Nevada! Then it was off to Milan to work with Vogue.
GH: I was working for some fashion boutiques on Rodeo Drive and shooting album covers…The Motels, Eddie Money, and Madonna.
Do you think it’s possible today for photography assistants to become as successful as you guys are?
MA: The industry has changed, but I think the same idea still stands. If you love photography nothing else matters.
JL: It is absolutely possible. When we started out it all seemed insurmountable as well. It’s always possible. The pathways are just different.
GH: There have always been a lot of great photographers and a lot of competition. The digital revolution has made everyone a photographer.
Along those lines, any advice for young photographers?
MA: If you’re in it just to make money and meet girls it won’t last for long. If you’re serious about creating a new vision or image, go for it!
JL: Shoot a lot when you are young and look at other art forms: Painting, sculpture and films especially. Stay open and absorb life and other people and stow it away. It will surface at the right time and you will be able to put it into your work.
GH: Keep shooting a lot and stay true to your vision.
What kind of work are you doing mostly these days?
MA: The majority of my work is magazine editorial, both local and international publications. And whenever I have time I’m shooting my personal work.
JL: I am working on my second book. I am taking road trips and spending time in different types of communities.
GH: Editorial—celebrity portraits, fashion, beauty—advertising and music mainly. And, of course, my personal fine art photographs—nudes—that I have been devoting more time to these days.
What do you think made Helmut so singular?
MA: His love for photography—every aspect of the process from shooting to the final silver gelatin print.
JL: His personal taste; the way that he saw the world. He always said that he saw the world in a bit of a “twisted” way. And, of course, his upbringing; his experiences as a child.
GH: You could always tell his images apart from the others.
Helmut did give a lot of advice — the bar at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel became our classroom after shoots. I also learned a lot through osmosis….just being around him.” — George Holz
What’s your relationship like with his widow, June, today?
MA: We communicate through email, letters and telephone and always try to see each other whenever we’re in the same city. June still enjoys having her camera out during get-togethers, too.
JL: I love my relationship with June today. We spend hours together talking about photography and life when she is out here in LA. She is not shooting much these days, but she is always working very hard on all the requests for Helmut. She is a great friend and supporter of my work.
GH: June is great…she is like a mother to all of us. She did some portraits of Just and I at the Chateau the last time she was in LA.
How important was she to Helmut in terms of his photography?
MA: Helmut always had June involved as his springboard for editing ideas and searching for new ones. They were a team.
JL: It is beyond definition. It was a unique relationship that produced some of photography’s greatest imagery. It is about life and love. It is about letting each other have the freedom they deserve.
GH: She was extremely important. Not only was she his partner in life, she collaborated with him on ideas—and she was his editor.
Finally, is there anyone or any dream scenario you’d like to shoot that you haven’t?
MA: Follow in my mentor’s footsteps—creating exciting images into my eighties.
JL: People’s lives that inspire me. Authentic images that resonate with feeling and emotion for the other person. To show those that are not shown…to get at something that is a bit beneath the skin.
GH: Shooting the Hunger Games‘ Jennifer Lawrence for TREATS!.