I'm giving a talk at a conference for Either/And at the National Media Museum on Friday 21st Sept at the University of Brighton with Roger Tooth, Stephen Bull, Karen Cross Annabella Pollen and Juliet Baillie. Find out more about it here.
Here's my abstract for the talk.
Studio Studies: Photographic ‘artistry’ in 1950s men’s magazines
Laws on pornography in the 1950s ruled that material appealing to prurient interest in sex that did not have serious artistic value could be banned as obscene. In an attempt to circumvent these rules, certain men’s magazines began to take their lead from the high art that seemed to elude the ban, dubbing themselves as guides for the amateur art photographer and adopting titles like ‘Line and Form’ and ‘Studio Studies’ to suggest artistic integrity rather than salacious titillation. The new publications ‘explored the curves of the female form to demonstrate the artistry of lighting’. Their tawdry ‘nude studies’ were now captioned with technical data - f11 at 125th of a second - to substantiate their serious intent. As the loophole in the law stretched, censors were forced to ask ‘Is this Art?’
Meanwhile, the enthusiastic amateur photographer now had access to equipment that would allow him to process films in the privacy of his own home. No longer having to worry what the local chemist (who normally developed the amateur’s photographs) might think of their choice of subject, men could shut themselves away in a darkened cupboard under the stairs to print their own ‘artistic interpretations of the female form’.
In his presentation, Graham Rawle will talk about his book, Diary of An Amateur Photographer and its protagonist – an aspiring glamour photographer caught in this seamy but colourful ‘grey’ area between 1950s art and pornography.