Blonde & Brunette (1941): The Camera Club, Art Nudes & the Windmill

Resources:

‘Jason’ (1941) Blondes & Brunettes: Thirty-Two Studies in the Nude. London: Chapman & Hall

Camera Club (1950) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGc5gzy0VEc [accessed 10/04/2017]

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As the 1950 Pathé newsreel feature Camera Club observes:

‘Every sixth Sunday Revudeville throws open its dress rehearsal to [the Camera Club] to practice as they please… Anyway it’s a change from family groups. It’s a chance to test new lenses, new stops & fresh exposures. Lovely Doris Deale makes a good subject for a candle power test but let’s hope the meter doesn’t fuse!’ (Scroll down to watch the full film below).[1]

The Windmill had a history of working with semi-professionals & amateur enthusiasts, as well as professionals, to photograph its bevy of glamorous female performers. The performers themselves were also repeatedly cast as wholesome yet glamorous pin-ups throughout the popular media and in the Windmill’s promotional materials. It is not surprising then, that books such as Blonde & Brunette by ‘Jason,’ ‘[a] beautiful set of thirty-two pictures… taken from models, all of whom were, at the time, show-girls at the Windmill Theatre, London,’ were produced by enthusiasts.

There is little in the way of text within this book, the emphasis here is on the artfully posed nudes, but what appears is very instructive. According to the dust jacket, ‘these are the first studies in the nude made by “Jason,”’ (a photographer who presumably wants to keep his identity a mystery. Perhaps his wife or employer might not share his artistic appreciation of the female form?) Despite any concerns, presumably around propriety, it is claimed that ‘this volume will have a definite appeal to all admirers both of the human form in all its beauty and the art of the photographer.’ As the book itself observes:

‘In spite of the extremely moderate price at which the book is published, no efforts have been spared in its production.’[2]

The book is a hard back, the paper is good quality glossy paper and the images are each printed full-page, on only one side of a page, presumably so that if you desired, you could remove the image and pin it up on your wall without sacrificing another image.

This resource really encapsulates the negotiation that lay at the heart of the Windmill’s appeal. Whilst these images are careful to deploy various markers of quality, remaining tastefully artistic in terms of lighting, pose, facial expression and so on, the fact still remains that these are nude images and could have also potentially been perceived as either titillating or offensive.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGc5gzy0VEc [accessed 10/04/2017]

[2] ‘Jason’ (1941) Blondes & Brunettes: Thirty-Two Studies in the Nude. London: Chapman & Hall

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*Images of the Camera Club at the Windmill in Tonight & Every Night, Vivian Van Damm’s autobiography.*

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