Now I have a teaser headline on this post about Art's eyes. How can a photographer be blind? Well, he was blind only for a few years. Actually Art was blind twice, once as a young man and once again as an old man. Too much work with arc lights burned his retinas…but his sight was restored with experimental surgery once, and he worked for decades again.
Even I am too young to remember the Bob Cummings show on television. It was in the early days the medium, but it was an early sitcom about the follies of a photographer…played by Bob Cummings, of course. Guess who was the show based on? Art Messick. He was even asked to PLAY the photographer, but he turned it down. That's right, folks. The person who literally DEFINED glamor pin-up photography to the early television viewing public, and you never heard of him. Art was the first woman-chasing pin up photographer!
Above, Bob Cummings plays Art Messick in the Television Show The Bob Cummings Show 1955!
In the June 1950 issue of Popular Photography, below, one can read about another brilliant idea Art had…rental darkrooms and studios for photographers. He would provide entire set-ups for shutterbugs and charge a nominal rent just to help the profession along. That's Art peering back at a camera while one of his clients poses a dame. Handsome fellow too, that Art...he could have played Bob Cummings!
Mr. Messick was born in 1921, and by the time the second world war came along he was shooting pictures of Hollywood stars for a living. He directed films, some apparently nudie-cuties in 3-D! He was close friends with silent film comic Harold Lloyd. He worked with, and helped develop the earliest uses of the strobe light in photography…which resulted in stunning photographs of Fred Astaire leaping through the air.
Many of the pin ups which appeared in Sir Knight, Adam and other staples of 1960s cheesecake were Art's. Art took the pic of Terri Turner on the cover of Adam here, and Jeanne Mack on the cover of same. He took the photo of busty blond babe Julie Redding here above. He took Betty McGowan on the cover of Modern Man with the inadvertent come-on "The Hazards of Nude Modelling" next to his photo. He took Bambi Hamilton on the cover of Minx. He took thousands upon thousands more. You may have seen Art's work as by "staff photographer" or "our intrepid cameraman" or some such thing. They are often not credited, so we will never know how many, but for generations of men, when they think of a woman, they are being influenced by Art Messick.
Art Messick spent the last years of his live assembling one of the largest collections photographs of rare Hawaiian flowers.
Art had five wives and passed away in 2007 at the age of 85.
Thanks to the nearest thing to a biography one will find on Art Messick, the lovely tribute by Robert Brummitt HERE
UNSUNG HEROES OF PHOTOGRAPHY is a series on Vintage Sleaze the Blog. Previous profiles include George Boardman Danny Rouzer Russ Meyer Wil Blanche Benno Friedman and Bunny Yeager
JIM LINDERMAN BOOKS AND AFFORDABLE EBOOKS ARE AVAILABLE HERE ON BLURB
Above, Art Messick shoots a Minx in 1959.