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Secondhand bookshops?


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

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Secondhand bookshops…

20 Feb 2022 9:13AM   Views : 385 Unique : 261

Four nights in Calderdale, and far too many books bought secondhand, including a couple of ‘collectable’ volumes, I suspect. There are impressive bookshops to be found…Times change, and three of the books I brought back show this very clearly indeed. A ‘complete edition’ of Helmut Newton’s Illustrated was the most costly, and shows its age in the luxuriant pubic hair of some of the models, though the aesthetics of the images remain, often, disturbing. Newton went through a phase of using medical braces as props for nudes. A portrait of an apparently-sleeping Andy Warhol on the front cover is appropriately misleading.

I admire Newton’s work, on the whole: he did seem to enjoy adding a shock factor as often as possible, and I find him less easy company than Bob Carlos Clarke. But whether you love or loathe his output, he was an influential figure in late Twentieth Century photography.

The second book, Harrison Marks’ She Walks in Beauty, cost fifty shillings according to the dust jacket: it predates ISBN numbers although the reference in the introduction to Ilford FP3 puts the publication back in the mid-Sixties, as FP3 was replaced by FP4 in around 1968, from memory. Rollei, Hasselblad and Linhof cameras are also mentioned, and the quality of the images is excellent.

The book is full of outdoor nudes shot in Britain, and Marks’ introduction notes the difficulty of the weather. As a result, many of the images were shot in direct sunlight, although in almost every case, this is controlled (I don’t know whether this was done with flash or with reflectors), and very often the shadows are beautifully exploited for composition. To my eyes, the models are beautiful, even if one or two hairstyles are a touch dated…

But the big thing that hits the eye is that there is not a single strand of pubic hair to be seen (contrasting with Newton’s Eighties aesthetic). There’s a simple reason for this – representing pubic hair was not allowed in British media, and so models shaved and photographers retouched very carefully indeed. And yes, this sometimes hampered posing, and also led to further retouching of images to give results that remind one of Barbie rather than womanhood.

But the strangest book is a 1999 volume by Marc Rivičre, a Frenchman. I can’t find anything on the web that identifies him clearly, and there’s little information in the book. There’s an actor-director of that name, and a photographer who died a year after the book was published in 1999, although he had been active in the Thirties, so I’m not at all convinced it was the same person. Any further information would be welcome!

I don’t know whether the back cover – the only clue other than the pictures themselves – is accurate in describing Rivičre’s working method: if it is, maybe it’s a French thing. But the title, Up and Down, gives a clue, as does the cover, depicting a woman on a bridge with her blouse hanging off her arms and baring her breasts (with a passing man in the background). Supposedly, the photographers approached strangers and asked them to expose themselves for his camera.

Are all the shots set up with models in advance, paid or unpaid, amateur or professional? I don’t know: The women all seem perfectly relaxed about the proceedings, and are not heavily made up. They are just ordinarily attractive people, the sort who improve any day by simply being there, irrespective of any nudity.

And while I will be using ideas from both Newton and Marks, I don’t plan to use Rivičre as a model for my nude pictures any time soon. The chances of giving offence (not to mention needing Mrs D to bail me out of the local nick) are just too high!

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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
20 Feb 2022 9:13AM
This blog is unillustrated, for obvious reasons! Please let me know if an 18+ only blog with a few illustrative frames would be of interest – as is so often the case, many old pictures are inspiring, and show new ways to shoot now…
PaulCox Avatar
20 Feb 2022 9:37AM
I do enjoy your blogs, some of your references return me to the 1960's a time when as a young apprentice I remember will being introduced by my instructors to the then girly magazines recovered with some Engineering Journal so as not to offend the drawing office tracers and others. Paul.
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 28 Scotland
20 Feb 2022 11:59AM
Following your references is always an education.
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
21 Feb 2022 3:19PM
I would answer yes to your question dudler.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
21 Feb 2022 6:02PM
I shall work on that, Pablo!
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
22 Feb 2022 5:56PM
The follow-up is now posted. It is not suitable for those under 18 or at their workplace. It's the next blog on my blog page here. I believe that a direct link, while helpful, would be contrary to site guidance.

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