Nudism in a Cold Climate

Nudism in a Cold Climate: The Visual Culture of Naturists in Mid-Twentieth Century Britain by Dr Annebella Pollen is a book that I’ve been hunting for some time. A well-researched publication on how photographers have approached the subject of the non-erotic nude from a British cultural perspective is a rare find.

A lot of what has been written about naturism is from authors who are part of the community, and this often clouds their objectivity. Not with this book, this author has taken a step back to look at the whole picture. Making observations that others may have glossed over because it doesn’t match the positive narrative.

What struck me most was the effect the Obscene Publications Act 1857 had on the images the photographers and publishers created to be on the right side of the law. And how these same photographers and publishers pushed this piece of outdated legislation to change in 1959 and 1964. It could be argued that the proliferation of nude photography in England started at this point in time.

The book also raises the question about the demographics of the people in these pictures. Why are most of the images from this era are of young white women? Some of the arguments for this choice, especially during pre-World War II, make for some uncomfortable reading. I’m sure personal preference of the decision makers played a big part in what was photographed.

When you investigate any topic in depth you soon find that not everything is black or white but much more complex. Take the relationship between naturist photography and the more explicit side. There were photographers and models working on both sides of these aisles pushing at the boundaries of what could be considered acceptable for the genre.

Looking at the outdoor and beach photo sets in the Mayfair magazines from this era, there are stylistic characteristics similar to the images found in the naturist publications.

Some might argue that there is no distinction between the non-explicit with the explicit. What I would say, from the research I’ve carried out, is that class does play a part in all of this. The more social standing a piece of work has, the more acceptable it becomes.

Why individuals participate in social nudity is outside the scope of this book, but it does give an insight into the photography used to persuade people into the community. The mismatch between naturism claiming that it doesn’t matter what kind of body you have and the picture perfect is stark. How many people these images attracted to the life style is debatable.

The commercial pressures of producing a publication for profit must have had an influence on what was printed. Aiming for the white male heterosexual with a high disposable income in mid-twentieth century Britain isn’t a bad business plan.

Question is, where are we in 2022? Definitely the days of high budget photo shoots for top shelf magazines at an exotic outdoor location have long gone. What is happening instead is individual photographers self financing the hiring of models via the Internet to take these types of pictures. Travel (pandemic allowing) and photographic equipment is well within the reach of many more people than in the 1950s and 60s.

My understanding is that the only magazine still in production today here in the UK is H&E naturist magazine with British Naturism also having an in-house publication. And without knowing an accurate breakdown of the demographics of the fully paid-up members of British Naturism or the readership of H&E naturist magazine, it would be difficult to judge if the images appearing in them are a true representation of the reality of the community. I do get the argument that not everyone wants the publicity but if it is going to be posed by models then it should still be closer to the truth.

I don’t remember if the author of this book explored in depth any link to the campaign work of Mary Whitehouse on what was being produced. It might well be that her campaign was aimed more at television than print, but I find it hard to believe that the different mediums were living in separate bubbles.

What I find fascinating is the balance between the freedom of expression and the suppression of content due to the harm that it could create to society. Are there areas that need some sort of control and what should that look like?

More details about this book can be found here.

Pirelli Calendar

The Pirelli Calendar, some would argue, is an icon of modern Western culture. Taschen, the art book publisher, deemed it worthy of a book collating all the images from inception in 1963 up to the year 2015.

As it is no longer in print I had to get hold of a copy from a charity shop.

What I find interesting about the Pirelli Calendar is how they managed to get the creme de la creme of the creative world involved in the production over the years. No expense was spared in getting the top of the line photographers to work with the creative directors on the project.

There is no question about the quality of the images. But the question is how and why they depict women in the way they do?

The why is fairly simple to answer, it is a marketing product to differentiate a tyre company from their competition. After all Michelin had already taken up the lifestyle sector covering gourmet food.

How women have been portrayed over the years is much more troubling. In one year, the innuendo of photographing a model eating a banana in a suggestive way and then in another a model is brushing her teeth with white foam dribbling from the corner of her mouth is not subtle. They are the definition of a heterosexual teenage boy’s wet dream.

It does make me wonder how ingrained this attitude was towards women in the company. If there were any female engineers at Pirelli when these images were first published it would be fascinating to see how they were treated day to day.

Since this book was published, the producers of this calendar have been trying to navigate their way through a dilemma of a changing world. A marketing product that alienates a large demographic of the population isn’t a great marketing tool. Pirelli commissioned Annie Leibovitz to shoot the 2016 calendar in a way which was meant to empower the women in the pictures.

Have they managed to create images that reflect the modern world we live in? I’ll leave you to judge their success.






Since the pandemic started in early 2020, I was lucky to retain my day job and be paid a monthly salary. I know a lot of people have been less lucky and had an uncertain time.

Having your career put on pause unexpectedly forced many people to create online content to make ends meet. Earning money from YouTube videos or being on a pay monthly platform like Patreon, has been a great way to keep alive the passion that led them to their dream job. Be it being a pilot who plays a computer flight simulator or a musician who plays TV theme tunes.

Not everyone has the skills or the knowledge to create “intelligent” content. There have been plenty of news stories about people creating “adult” content on sites like OnlyFans during the pandemic.

When I heard about the actress Sarah Jayne Dunn being fired from the TV series Hollyoaks for starting an OnlyFans account it raised many questions in my mind that I thought it worth sharing on here.

The photographs Sarah Jayne Dunn is publishing on OnlyFans are similar to what Lads Mags, if they are still around, print. Skimpy lingerie, boudoir type images that are not out of place for a female celebrity in this day and age. So what is the objection of the TV production company in her making these images? I don’t buy the we are protecting the children argument for her sacking because how many children have credit cards to pay for a subscription.

I’ve never seen Hollyoaks so I have no idea what type of person Sarah Jayne Dunn portrayed in the programme. But if the character is squeaky clean, you would think that a good actor does not need to share the same personality that they are playing because after all they are acting.

There are so few roles for women in the TV and film industries that careers can be very short lived. So creating an online fanbase would arguably be a good career move.

So what is the real problem with the OnlyFans platform? From what I can see, there is an issue with the morality of this particular website. I’m also seeing the complex nature of how our society deals with images of women, the increasing abundance of pornography and the marketing of consensual sex work.

6 July 2023 Channel 4 repeated OnlyFans Got Me Fired: UNTOLD today in which Sarah Jayne Dunn gives her side of the story.

The programme is also on YouTube.