The Black Pinups #6 Cass Carr Pioneer and Camera Club Operator Afro-Antics
Today's installment in the continuing series "Afro Antics" the Black Pinup discusses a groundbreaking African-American photographer, musician and entrepreneur seldom given credit...yet he was one of the first people responsible for Bettie Page. Cass Carr hired Bettie Page as a model in 1952 for his nude "Camera Club Outings" in which amateur and professional cameramen would pay ten dollars to photograph nudes. In fact Ms. Page was once arrested at an outdoor Camera club meeting with Mr. Carr in 1952.
There was another notable aspect of Mr. Carr, and it relates to the Black Pinup as follows. Despite the law and racist attitudes, Mr. Carr, An African-American who lived in Harlem and performed as a jazz musician, hired inter-racial models. Black models, Latino models, Caucasian models...a whole rainbow of women willing to pose in the nude for camera bufffs. Note this was in the early 1950s at a time when segregation was the rule and proper female models simply did NOT remove their clothes, ESPECIALLY with members of other races. The cropped photographs above show and unusual time and place, but more importantly, they show women undressed in early "glamor" photographs when simply taking a photo of a nude woman of any color was illegal.
Cass Carr, in effect, started a revolution. From dingy studios in Harlem, Hell's Kitchen and rented farmland, he arranged naked photography for the first time in the modern era, and in the process provided the beauty of women in all races to be seen, shot and appreciated for the first time in the 20th century. Many of the photos found their way to men's magazines, others to smutty under the counter photos...but until Carr came along nude photography was a dingy thing indeed.
I tell the story of Mr. Carr and his cohorts in the book Camera Club Girls: Bettie Page, her Friends and the Work of Rudolph Rossi (Which prints some 100 original photographs uncropped)
Included here are excerpts from Jet Magazine September 4, 1952, the most prominent Black magazine of the day, which describes Mr. Carr and his exploits and several examples of women of color photographed at one of his interracial outings (Taken by participant Rudolph Rossi, whose work is featured in the book)
Black Pinups Afro-Antics is a regular feature of Vintage Sleaze the Blog, this is the number 6 entry. The goal of the series is to tell stories and present a history neglected for too long...the Black Pinup. Dull Tool Dim Bulb Book Catalog HERE Tweet