A considerable number of years ago, when I was about half as old as I am now, there was a magazine in Australia called Chance. While Playboy, and later Penthouse, that were the yardsticks in the genre, there was another Australian mens’ magazine, Man, first published in 1938, that was Chance’s main competitor. Chance versus Man in the late nineteen sixties was a reflection of a wider clash of cultures. Sophisticated London of the Swinging Sixties, let loose in a society that was parochial and still a tad provincial. Australian magazine production and design values were the children of publishers raised on the Australian Women’s Weekly while the founder of Chance, Gareth Powell, came out an industry which really was pushing the boundaries of magazine publishing with publications like Nova and Tatler.
More importantly, as far as photographers were concerned, he believed that taking photographs was the photographers job and a typical brief was to do “what you like, but come back with good pictures that we can use.” For Australian photographers who had been given little room to move by local magazines, it was a breath of heaven. Few let him down. Some of the best Australian photography of the sixites and early seventies were published in Gareth Powell magazines. Chance and Pol were his flagship magazines and having photographs published in them was a real treat. And being paid for them was even better.
In the late Sixties getting a model to pose nude was something of a challenge. Most professional models wouldn’t do it and there weren’t all that many amateurs that would either, so that many of the nude photographs of the era featured the same girls. So finding a new model was always a treat, and I guess I was lucky to find a few in the years that shooting nudes was a part of my professional life that were “exclusive” to me.
The result was that I must have driven them crazy with the number of shooting sessions that I organised. Far more than Chance could ever use … and it was the only magazine that I ever did this sort if work for, as most of my photography was far more prosaic and boring.
There have been quite a lot of books written over the years on how to shoot the nude. One of them that I bought in about 1960 was Peter Basch Photographs Beauty, a book that sold in the United States for 75c, and I think I paid about ten bob ($1) for it. The book was not very good, but it did contain a few nudes and I thought “I’d like to have a go at that.” So I can pinpoint the book that sparked my interest, but it was Sam Haskin’s seminal book “Cowboy Kate & Other Stories” published in 1963 that exerted the biggest influence on most aspiring nude photographers of the time.
Bold graphics, grain the size of golf balls, and stark black and white images devoid of tone became almost obligatory for nude photography, turning up in Chance and other magazines for years after.
I was reminded of all of this by an email from Gareth headed “I am NOT elderly!” which alas, is not true.