Glamour in your Lens


NEARLY ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS try their hand at glamour photography at one time or another. And most of them, sad to say, make a shocking job of it.

Make a survey of the average club exhibition. Give all the prints a fair chance, and don't dismiss nine out of ten right away because they don't strike you at first glance as the picture of the year. When you really know the pictures, see if you have reached any general conclusions.

You'll find there are some very good landscapes. The realist school will have produced some interesting studies of people in bars, cats in dark alleys, and queues outside cinemas. There will be a few first-class studio portraits. Two or three tabletops will make you come back again and again for another look. If the club boasts a montage specialist, there will be at least one print which will claim your attention if only because you're still not quite sure how it's done.

But the pin-ups, if there are any, will never make you suspect the hand of Peter Gowland, Andre de Dienes or Fritz Henle.

There will be a picture of a girl sitting on rocks which are obviously too hard for comfort. She looks ill at ease and not very happy. Her skin is dead white, unless the negative has been over-printed, in which case her darkroom tan has spilled over the rest of the print and made it muddy and disgusted with itself. She is wearing a bathing costume which doesn't quite fit, her waist is thick, her legs look short and fat, and she either has no bust at all or enough for half a dozen girls.

There will be another girl sitting on the beach. Shadows indicate that there really was some sun about at the time, but it has been washed away in one of the solutions and since there is no warmth in the picture we wonder what the poor girl is doing in a swimsuit. She is trying to look happy but doesn't succeed, because round her neck is hung a card which reads: "I am having my picture taken." We can't see it but we can read what's on it.

There will be a studio picture of a girl wearing very few clothes, perhaps none at all. She isn't happy, either. The lighting is wrong, the pose unnatural, and the general effect slightly embarrassing--because the girl and the photographer were trying hard to do something but didn't know exactly what and certainly not how to do it.

However, the photographer who produces these not-quite-masterpieces always has an excellent excuse. It's as clear to everybody else as it was to him that the girls in the pictures aren't Marilyn Monroe, Gina Lollobrigida and Diana Dors. And you can't bricks without straw, can you?

Now if the exhibiting club is fortunate enough to have one photographer who has the slightest gift for glamour photography, and has worked to develop it, it will become obvious at once that there's no shortage of straw at all. It will be obvious that, important as the model is, the photographer matters much more.

This photographer's girl sitting on the rocks is bubbling over with the joy of youth. The swimsuit she wears seems to be part of her her figure is breathtaking. You don't think about the pose because there isn't a pose. She is ready to jump out of the picture and if you turn your back she probably will.

His girl sitting on the beach will be basking in sun so bright you feel it on your skin. You have just walked up to her and said "Hello", and she is smiling up at you, glad to see you.

His girl in the studio will be a girl in a dream. What she wears doesn't matter. She is a lovely creature who doesn't exist, but you wish she did. If she has faults of face or figure you refuse to see them.

What is the secret of a photographer like this?

It isn't one thing, of course, it's a lot of things. And this book is an examination of them.

This is a book for the ordinary amateur, and it has been written because it's needed. There are excellent books on Glamour Photography by Peter Gowland, Eugene Hanson and others, but they assume that the sun is going to be so strong and hot that the glamour photographer will have to work on overcast days. These workers are used to light so strong and contrasty that fill-in flash is almost a necessity. For models, they take Hollywood starlets for granted. They work in a part of the world where pretty girls go around in shorts or swimsuits most of the year as a matter of course.

The difference between their approach and this is the difference between California and Bradford.

Well, perhaps we all wish we were photographing pretty girls in California. Since we can't, what sort of job can we make of it in London or Inverness or Swansea?

Pretty good.

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