Join Date: Aug 2005
Member GG#: 45854
Paramour Production’s Glamour Manifesto….
There is more to life than seeing breasts, isn’t there?
I’m sure I didn’t always feel this way. I remember the delight I once felt as a kid upon finding my older cousin’s stack of playboys. It was a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure that at the time, seeing breasts was an all-encompassing obsession. Truth be told, I still enjoy seeing them, it’s just not quite the sole focus of my existence anymore, but yes, indeed, the site of a beautiful woman sans clothing, staring back at me from another time still makes me feel good. It is no longer arousing to me as it was in my youth, but it makes me smile. It makes me happy, I think, because it reminds me of those summer days, outside with my friends, huddled around an old worn-out copy of Playboy and looking at it with shear wonder and amazement. I didn’t really understand what I was seeing, and yet I did. It had an impact.
There may be some reading this who are quite a bit younger than I am, and may not fully appreciate what that impact was. See this occurred before the days of the “Lad Mags”. There was no Maxim or FHM or Stuff or any of the other over the counter gadget/tease magazines that are out today. This was the late 70’s and our country had been going through, and coming out of, some pretty ugly times. This ugliness seemed to permeate every aspect of my society, from fashion to attitudes. Even that which was held out at “fashionable” or “beautiful” had a darker edge. I’m sure that adults understood this and that it worked as a metaphor for the times, but seeing some hard-lined model who looked as if she just came off a coke-fueled night of partying, with an expression that said, “go screw yourself”, didn’t do anything for a twelve year old kid who had been raised on a $1.50 matinee diet of old Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman movies. Glamour had left Hollywood, it had left television, it had left fashion and it certainly wasn’t at the newsstand, at least nowhere I was allowed to look. It seemed that the whole world was covered with a thin film of sludge made up of equal parts fear, depression, despair, loathing and self-absorption. If you watch many films from that time you will see they tend to have a sort of grey desaturated look to them. I know that much of that has just come from time, but to me, that was how the world actually looked.
While there may not have been any lad mags, there were men’s magazines. At the time these fell into two categories, Playboy and pretty much everything else, and most of that “everything else” was pretty awful (Penthouse probably being the one exception depending on what issue from what year you looked at as it’s imagery tended to vacillate quite a bit between harder and softer fare). While the harder magazines (the everything else bunch) may have showed everything that two people could possible do, and as such were educational resource to be sure, they were far from glamorous, or even beautiful. They were the women of the real world, covered in that same sludge of despair which they tried to mask with too much makeup and a softening filter. We looked at these women much as we would look at a sideshow freak at a circus, awkwardly interesting to look at, but only from a distance, and not too often.
Then there was Playboy and in it’s pages, were real girls. Beautiful girls. Smiling, happy, vivacious girls with angelic faces. These were just like the pretty, older, neighborhood girls that walked by on our Chicago streets. Old enough for us to stare at from our front stoop, and yet still young enough to not have been hardened by the bleak, grey world around them – and they were naked! They didn’t look “dirty” or like the old washed up whores that we sometimes saw walking home early in the morning. They didn’t look like the women in those other magazines, these girls were soft and pretty and beautiful and, well, glamorous…
I think a lot of us who shoot glamour today were inspired by those images. While our concept of “glamour” may have evolved to include different types of images, both past and future, those images from our youth continue to serve as a cornerstone of what glamour means.
The heyday of glamour began prior to the first issue of playboy though. Most of us feel it’s golden age came along with the golden age of Hollywood, a time when studios carefully crafted the image of each of their actors. America had been going through some hard times then as well. We had just been through one Great War and we were getting ready for another. The depression had taken much of the nation’s pride and FDR was trying to instill hope with a New Deal, while Mother Nature transformed the great plains into a bowl of dust. Movies were not just another option for something to do on a Saturday night, they were an escape from the hardships that many faced, and Hollywood delivered. They gave us stars that were larger than life, beautiful and provocative, strong and dashing, and as sensual and erotic as the times would allow. They were glamorous.
When our young men went overseas to fight yet another world war, they took these images with them. Pinned up in lockers, tucked away in flak jackets and painted on planes, these were the images that inspired a generation of fighting men to endure the hell that had erupted around them. Some think that that these were just artistic expression devoid of sexuality. Others opine that those images were the porn of their day. They are both wrong. There was hardcore “stag” material available back then, in fact it has always been available, only the medium for presenting it has changed. Yet it was not those images that went to war. But make no mistake, these pinups of the 40, the provocative pictures of girlfriends back home, the movie starlets and the Gil Elvgren paintings, were still selling sex, but they were selling more too. These were not the girls you just looked at with a lurid glance; these were the girls you fantasized about, both sexually and romantically. These were the girls you wanted to come home to.
After the war, Playboy picked up on this theme. They weren’t selling sex by itself either. They were selling a lifestyle, albeit a different one. But the basic premise was the same; if you were a sophisticated man with a taste for fun and the finer things in life, then these were girls you wanted to meet, the girls you wanted to date. For men they embodied a fantasy that went beyond sex – like the pinups of the preceding generation, these images were representational of the hopes we had for our future and the lives we wanted to lead. They were our fantasy, our escape and our desire.
That is what glamour has always represented, at least to me. It’s not simply the obvious depiction of what is, but the promise of what could be.