A Helmut Newton Exclusive

We are excited to share with you excerpts from fashion photographer Jamie Lundy’s upcoming book entitled “Sylvia”, featuring Helmut Newton’s favourite and best-known supermodels, Sylvia Gobbel.


By Jamie Lundy

I will never forget my first sight of her.

An Iconic figure, wearing a large boater-style hat, her blonde wavy hair resting on her shoulders. With one hand in her chino-style trouser pocket, hips and foot turned out slightly she smiled at the waiter and said: “Bonjour Monsieur”


We had arrived a little early at the restaurant on Rue Des Archives and my nerves were starting to get the better of me. The street was packed with shoppers and the pavement was littered with chairs and tables as diners spilled out from the busy restaurants. The smell of garlic was in the air and barbequed meats and fish. Mel gave me a reassuring smile.

“You’ll be fine”. She said as she took hold of my hand. “You’ve come a long way. A long journey to get to here. Just enjoy the moment”.

The heat from the Paris sun was beating down, casting shadows upon the shimmering concrete floor.

“Wow! Look how black the shadows are?” I’d never seen shadows so black. Maybe it’s because I’m a black and white stills photographer. Anyway, Mel looked at me, the kind of look your parents used to give you when they were disappointed at something you’d done.

“What?” I said innocently.

The sun was relentless, and my black shirt was showing signs of perspiration through heat, anxiety and nervous tension. We stood on the pavement just outside the restaurant entrance, looking inside to see if we could see her. It was hard to make out if she was sat inside or not. I looked at my phone to see if she’d messaged.

“Maybe we’d come to the wrong restaurant?”

“Maybe she’s changed her mind?”

My phone had died. The meeting had been so last minute that we’d not brought any travel plugs and hadn’t been able to charge our phones night before.

“I can’t see her. Maybe she’s not coming?”.

“Jamie. She’s just text you before your phone died to say she’s nearly here. Chill your bean! Come on let’s grab a seat.”

Sylvia had called the meeting in Paris to discuss the photoshoot, to see my portfolio and wanted to establish my ideas for the shoot. I hadn’t really thought of any yet. Just then, a very tall lady approached and stood at the makeshift entrance between all the chairs and tables on the street. I will never forget my first sight of her. An Iconic figure, wearing a large boater-style hat, her blonde wavy hair resting on her shoulders. With one hand in her chino-style trouser pocket, hips and foot turned out slightly she smiled at the waiter and said.

“Bonjour Monsieur”

I turned to Mel.

“That’s her!” blurting it out for the world to hear, “That’s her!”

I couldn’t contain my excitement. Sylvia stood, head and shoulders above the world, a very imposing, beautiful woman. I watched her for what seemed like an hour and then suddenly waved my hand in the air, like I’d just won the bingo, shouting.

“Sylvia, it’s me, Jamie. Sylvia!”

She never moved her head, just glanced in my general direction and seemed to squint her eyes together. A pause of silence, then a huge smile came across her face and a warmth bestowed.

“Jammy” she said in her German, Austrian, English accent.

She held out her hand as she walked over. I paused. I suddenly had a vision of my father and how he had always taught me to shake a man’s hand firmly.

“It’s a sign of respect” he used to say.

“Show that you mean business. That you’re not a wet fish!”

With his image in my head, I had the urge to shake Sylvia’s hand firmly, not that she looked like a man, far from it, but she did look like she could quite easily handle herself and eat me for breakfast.

“Very nice to meet you,” she said as her hand gripped mine.

I had made the right choice. My father had taught me well.

She was a very domineering woman. Powerful in statue, but delicate and beautiful. I immediately knew why Newton had used her in his work. As I felt her grip around mine, I remember thinking to myself.

“They don’t make women like this anymore. Wow!”


Having finished a successful morning shoot, we decided to head to a beautiful restaurant by the sea which Sylvia highly recommended. Whilst my driving skills are not too bad, driving on the wrong side of the road with Sylvia Gobbel calling directions from the back was a noteworthy achievement in itself.

“Jammy, turn left here!”
“Jammy, turn right here!”
“Jammy, why do you drive so slow?”

Oh! how we laughed. Sylvia and her trusted friend and makeup artist were hilarious, bickering and arguing in the back of the small Opel. With both of them towering at something like 6’3″ leg room was a slight issue, but we managed.

During the short drive from Sylvia’s house to St Tropez beach, she told us old tales and stories of her friendship and working relationship with Helmut Newton, pointing out where he used to live, how long for and that he used to keep himself to himself.

On approaching the car park of the restaurant, Sylvia pointed another location of where Helmut was keen to shoot. A lean-to structure of bamboo columns and struts with a bamboo weaved roof carefully placed on the top to create shade on the cars from the sun. I instinctively could see why it was a popular spot for Helmut as hard rays of light pierced through the gaps in the bamboo roof and hard shadows reached out on the floor.

I grabbed my camera gear out the boot and we headed to the restaurant. It was located right on St Tropez beach itself and was quite breathtaking. The golden sand gleamed white, with a haze hovering in the hot sun, a jetty projecting out into the clear blue sea.

“Wow,” I thought to myself “How lucky am I? This is quite something”.

We all decided on ordering the fresh salted fish, washing it down with a couple of glasses of champagne. A fat coke for me of course.

I couldn’t wait to get started on the beach shots. Sylvia mentioning the classic “Beach Exercise” photograph of Newtons. It was quite a surreal moment seeing Sylvia Gobbel, pretend fight with my girlfriend Mel, laughing and joking and just having a great time. It was amazing to work with Sylvia. She still strikes a pose well and I felt very privileged and humbled to actually be taking photos of her.

We finished the day on such a moral high and Sylvia invited us back to her house to have some late supper. As we climbed the stairs to her house on the mountain, the sun was just setting for the day and I stopped for a second to admire the coastal view. I could hear the sound of waves in the distance and thoughts started to wash over me. How far I’d come. In life! In photography. From the depths of the black abyss to this.

Helmut Newton, without knowing, has played such a huge part in my recovery. His work helping inspire me back to health, his legacy hanging on walls in my home. It made me realise that photography and creativity really can change lives. It certainly changed and saved mine.

“Come on babe” said Mel as she passed me. I grabbed her hand, smiled and continued to push on the assent up the mountain. An assent that one day I hope to accomplish.


We started the day on the veranda, eating breakfast on the ground floor of our posh hotel room, which backed directly onto the swimming pool and beautiful lush gardens. As we sat, I watched the palm trees sway gently in the breeze and admired the light of the sun piercing through the overcast sky.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Helmut Newton and his famous St Tropez backdrops. I was apprehensive as this was my first day shooting Sylvia. We were there, batteries on charge, laptop on charge, everything on charge! I gulped the last of the cold coffee.


“What?” She had a stern look on her face as she hates me calling her that and she knew what was coming.

“Would you do a few poses for me over there, near that palm tree”. I smiled.

She peered over the end of her sunglasses and rolled her eyes.

“Now?” she said, with a half-eaten piece of toast hanging from her mouth.

“Please, if you don’t mind”.

She rolled her eyes again.

“Right now?”


“Fine, where do you want me”.

“Just there, by that palm tree. Pretend to pick one of the apples. Open your dressing gown a little too. Helmut style”. Clearly, she was irritated and annoyed that at every given opportunity, I ask her to pose, clothed, partially clothed, or with no clothes whatsoever.

I took the shot, then paused and looked at the image in the back of the Fujifilm GFX 50s. It was brilliant. A moment of space, time and love captured at 1/500 of a second. A moment that had never happened before and a moment that would never happen again.

It made me think. How far I’d come. Not just with photography, but in my life, my battle with illnesses, the divorce, losing my job, my mental health. It dawned, that each individual person has a unique existence and his essence, is the gradual, ever-changing product of his existence over time.

In my own consciousness of the moment, I didn’t realise I was determining an identity and a meaning for my life and my own worth. In the art and study of photography I had and was creating a new identity and an existence of myself, which had disappeared, many years before.

Buy Now