Camera Club Girls(Reprinted from Figure Photography Magazine HERE)
Jim Linderman sent me a copy of this little volume he has recently written and published, and it’s an awful lot of fun. For those of you too young to remember the 50’s and early 60’s (before the American Cultural/Sexual Revolution), there was a time when getting a model to pose in the nude for a camera was about as easy as landing on the moon, which we hadn’t done yet. Here’s a blurb from Jim’s website:
For over 50 years, the extraordinary Hand-Painted Original Photographs of Bettie Page and nude models of the 1950s taken by Rudolph Rossi lay hidden. Now, for the first time, over 100 have been published in Camera Club Girls by Jim Linderman. 114 pages, 35 pages of text and 180 pictures, the book tells the story of the informal groups of early camera enthusiasts in New York City who paid ten dollars each to photograph naked women, including Bettie Page, in dingy studios and outdoor excursions. As much the history of early erotic photography and Times Square smut as it is the story of the exceptional personal vision of an artist, master photographer and painter which has not been told until now. The photographic find of the decade, and an amazing story which combines passion, painting, photography and early porno in a tale never told.
Jim is a collector of cultural ephemera and oddments from those and other years – in this book he speaks of living near New York City’s Times Square back in the day. Before its Disney-fication of the 90’s, Hell’s Kitchen was one wild place. I probably bumped into Jim somewhere along the way, ’cause I was there, too. And it was something, let me tell ‘ya! But that’s another story :-)
‘Camera Club Girls’ is a delightful visual time capsule, recapturing the sexual zeitgeist of the time, and a lighthearted description of the lengths to which determined and enthusiastic amateur camera bugs used to go to fulfill their dreams of actually being in the same room with a woman who was willing to take her clothes off and stand still for a photo or two.
That may be difficult for youngsters to comprehend, accustomed as they are to today’s culture, immersed, indeed, inundated, with highly sexual language and imagery. Unless you live in Philadelphia. It’s still the 50’s here :-)
Now, I think that Jim is enthusiastic about his collecting, and indulging in a bit of hyperbole when he describes his photographic ‘discovery’, Rudolph Rossi, as ‘an artist, master photographer and painter’; there is precious little talent in art, photography, or painting evident in Rossi’s ‘work’. The photographs are banal and empty; imagining Rossi painstakingly colorizing his photographs by hand in order to create ‘art’ is a sad, lonely thought, at least to me.
That said, I will agree that the photographs certainly have a sweet, artless charm the captures the sexual and cultural innocence of the era, and the innocence of the photographers and models who participated in the camera club experience, as well. I have seen photographs of similar clubs in Japan that, I believe, still operate in the same manner today. And one can't help but wonder if, in some ways, the societal restrictions of the period didn't make it all the more fun, in a schoolboy kind of way
Some may find Jim's history of the camera clubs themselves more interesting than the story of Rossi's work in particular. This is a little book, but there's a lot of delightful nostalgia included that will appeal to those of us old enough to remember, and that will perplex the kids, who won't believe that America was once so weird.
Buy this book from Jim - You'll enjoy it!
(FHP, or Figure Photography Magazine Home Page HERE)