1970s photography – misogyny, paedophilia and snobbery

It’s easy to forget the past and if you forget the past then you can fail to learn from it. Recently I’ve been leafing through a small collection of mainstream mass-market 1970s photography magazines that I bought out of curiosity on ebay and some things struck me very strongly: 1. how misogynistic the coverage was; 2. how openly paedophiles were able to operate; and 3. how much snobbery there was.

I looked through this magazine with the aim of finding some 1970s camera reviews so I could buy the camera now on eBay and review it here on The Camera Challenge. What I found was something far more sinister.

Here’s the front cover of Practical Photography from July 1972 featuring Kathy Simmons, “Our attractive cover girl,” as they put it.

Practical Photography July 1972 - The Camera Challenge - www.thecamerachallenge.com

Here’s the back cover featuring an advert by Kodak for their range of films, with the slogan “You can’t beat your wife.” 1972; the year when domestic violence was seen as amusing enough for Kodak to joke about it and expect sales to increase with its reputation untarnished. The photographs show a woman in the home with a close up of her thighs in a see-through night dress, a close-up of a sewing machine and a ‘peeping tom’ view of her through a window. “A session at home can work wonders for any portfolio.” What sort of session are they referring to? Photography? “High Speed Ektachrome Film will let you explore the darkest corner.” The darkest corner of your house or your wife? From this advert, photography is clearly an all male pursuit and women are objects to be photographed.

Practical Photography July 1972 - The Camera Challenge - www.thecamerachallenge.com

There’s even a letter complaining about the ‘plastic imitation’ of women they have on their covers and a letter of thanks from a man called J. Hardingham of Ipswich who goes on to thank the photographer Marcus Brown and a nameless model he refers to as ‘His lovely model.”

Practical Photography July 1972 - The Camera Challenge - www.thecamerachallenge.com

Further on there are the winners of their Girl of the Year competition where the women are named this time, but also their ages are given. They don’t mention the ages of the male photographers. Apparently ‘Photographer W. Jack used a studio location to picture his Girl of the Year ‘find‘.’ I’m fascinated to see that a 23 year old woman can be repeatedly referred to as a ‘girl’ and that she was ‘found’, as if she’s an object.

Practical Photography July 1972 - The Camera Challenge - www.thecamerachallenge.com

Further on there’s the use of the word photographer interchangeably with cameraman. After all, in 1972 if you’ve got a camera you must be a man, right? 

Before you think that it’s just quaint or old-fashioned then you have to realise that if you were a photographer and a woman you had to live through this.

The classified advertisements are where the openly paedophile culture of the time comes alive; there are adverts for:

THE BOY. Charming Studies (9-15). Sets of six half-plate. – D Webster, 2 Talke Road, Walsall.”

Practical Photography July 1972

FILMS, Slides and huge black and white Photo Studies of Boyhood. Send s.a.e for lists. Box No. P206, 117 Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2TS.”

Practical Photography July 1972

KIDS GALORE! Pete, Steve, Dave and some new friends. Photographs and slides. Box No. P168, 117 Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2TS.”

Practical Photography July 1972

INDIAN GIRLS, 9-11 yrs., set of five unretouched nude studies, b/wh : postcard £1, wallet-size 75p, mini 50p. – Weatherby, 131 Claremont Road, Manchester, 14. Postal only.”

Practical Photography July 1972

There is even open recruitment of underage models advertised:

YOUNG Female Models required (10-16). Parents please write in confidence. South Midlands, South Wales, West of England, London area. – Box P214, 117 Park Road Peterborough PE1 2TS.”

Practical Photography July 1972

NATURIST Studio urgently requires original Boyhood Negatives (B & W / Colour); 10-15’s, outdoors or at home. Also Junior Models required. E. Suffolk area. Parents please apply for details of registration in confidence. – Box No P224, 117 Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2TS.”

Practical Photography July 1972

BOYS, Amateur photographer requires Young Boy Models for Boyhood and Nude Studies. Free accommodation in Gloucestershire. Parents write in confidence. Negatives and slides purchased. – Box No. P223., 117 Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2TS.”

Practical Photography July 1972

And then this:
Practical Photography July 1972

This is Practical Photography, a mainstream publication in 1972.

It seems churlish to even consider the snobbery in the publication, but there is plenty of it with equipment snobs and foreign travel snobs featuring heavily. The adverts are particularly good at it:

Practical Photography July 1972 - The Camera Challenge

1972 wasn’t a year to be proud of in photography: Misogyny; paedophilia; and snobbery. How different is it now? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you – please leave your reply below or feel free to get in contact.

Please note – if any of the subjects covered in this blog are distressing to you there is charitable and public support available. Please use it.

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