Ken Howard - The Glamour Book Interview.
This is of interest to some more than others I know, and some of you may have seen it before, but I was certainly not aware of it. I would like to thank Max for sharing and passing it on. At the time of the interview, I reckon Ken would have been about 49 years old, as this is a good few years after the demise of Town and Country Publications.
During the interview, Ken refers to a Spick and Span set that was taken with a local girl falling off a bike in a country lane. I thought that sounded familiar. - check out Nicola Taylor, Spick No 169 - December 1969 (Can you see Ken’s marker stone in picture 4?)
I have not reproduced the whole interview here, as it is quite long. Just the introduction and the first two sections. The full interview is placed at the bottom of the Ken Howard page (The Glamour Book Interview)
"The Glamour Book" (1982) - BFP Books - ISBN 0 907297
Like many keen photographers, Ken Howard works in an office from Monday to Friday. But on Saturdays, at his bungalow in Bournemouth, the lounge becomes a studio.
Glamorous girls travel up to a hundred miles to the quiet housing estate, where they are photographed by one of Britain's most successful “amateur” glamour photographers.
Despite the disadvantages of working as a part-time freelance, Ken Howard has managed to find a regular market for his work. Photographs taken in his home studio have appeared on the covers of Amateur Photographer and Practical Photography, and have been used in national newspapers and foreign magazines. During the last twenty years, Ken Howard has proved that it is possible to break into some of the major glamour markets without being based in London, and without becoming a full-time professional.
It was in 1951, on a boat to Malaya, that I first became interested in photography. I was a regular serviceman - one of the idiots that signed on!
An Ensign Ful-Vue was my first camera, soon followed by an Agfa Isolette. I found out all about developing and printing films in the RAF station photographic section as a sort of hobby.
This hobby continued after I left the services. At first, I could only make contact prints from the roll-film negatives, but persistent hints finally produced the much-needed enlarger as a present one Christmas.
Early subjects were the usual family snaps and landscapes. People liked the sort of work I was doing, though, and I soon started receiving requests from neighbors to photograph their babies and kids.
From these beginnings, I progressed to photographing girls from the typing pool at work I am not too sure of the connection. I just fancied women, I suppose!
So far, all my indoor pictures had been taken with a single Photoflood Bulb in a small Photax reflector. This was fitted with a clip, so that it could be attached to the back of a chair, or shelf.
Something a little more professional was obviously called for, so I found two large tins, stuck a pole in each and filled them with concrete. Then I bought another clip-on reflector to go with these new lighting stands.
One of my very first glamour sessions was on a Photo News Weekly outing to Hastings. We had great times on the beach, though you took pot luck with the weather.
I submitted some of my beach shots to Photo News Weekly shortly after - and one of them was published.
It was this success which encouraged me to answer an advertisement in Photo News Weekly. "Photographer by the sea," ran the heading. ‘Would you like to be the staff photographer on a woman's magazine?"
My application was successful and I moved down to Bournemouth early in 1960.
Miss World and Magazines
Within a couple of weeks of joining the magazine, I had a row with the editor about covering a local beauty contest.
‘You’re a woman’s magazine,” I argued. "If a local girl wins, it's good publicity. Why are you haggling about it?"
In the end, the editor agreed. “But don't make a meal of if" he warned.
It was at this contest that I first met Ann Sidney, who went on to become Miss World!
But things were not going so well for the magazine. One day, I got a call from the editor. "Howard, you are a luxury I can no longer afford," he said. “Go out and get yourself a job. When I've got more money, I might take you back”
So, it was back to office work. But at least I now had a few contacts. I continued to photograph Ann Sidney, and she was the subject of my first cover success with Amateur Photographer.
However, when Ann won the Miss World title, I lost my model. But quite a lot of my work had been published by now and was getting known. I actually had girls coming and asking me to photograph them!
By today’s standard, my photography sessions with Ann Sidney would hardly qualify for the glamour label, there were no topless shots. But a new model agency opened in Bournemouth and I hired two or three of the girls, submitting the pictures to magazines such as Parade.
Then I started having some success with Spick, Span and Beautiful Britons publications. I received commissions from them nearly every week - the old stockings and suspender stuff mostly.
Every commission came with a shooting script. This was fine to a point, though it became a bit of a bore after a while.
But the shooting sessions could always be relied on to liven up the area. I remember one where I was photographing a local beauty queen riding a bike.
The first part went as planned. I put a small stone down on the road so that there was something for me to focus the camera on. Then I told her to ride slowly by with her right foot on the handle bars and the left foot down on the pedals. She had to show her briefs, you see. And as she passed over the small stone, I pressed the shutter release to capture the picture.
Then we came to the last shot, where it had to look as if she had fallen off the bike. She sat on the road and I lowered the bike on top of her. She lay spread-eagled, showing all she had got. And just as I was about to take a picture, a tractor and trailer with a load of hay came around the corner of the country lane. So, I had to lift the bike up and drag her to her feet. We stood there on the side of the road while he drove past very slowly, staring at us as if we were something off another planet - he just could not believe what he had seen.
He kept looking and looking - until he drove straight into a ditch - tractor, trailer, hay and all!
I put the girl back on the ground, took the final picture and then cleared off home as quickly as possible.
Originally, very few of these magazines featured nude or topless models. It was mostly glimpses of underwear, which quickened the pulses of purchasers.
Then a new type of magazine started to appear - and the girls they featured were definitely not wearing briefs and bra. Or much else!
Some of the magazines I was working for felt they had to offer their customers a little more, but I decided I did not want to get involved some of the requests were bordering on pornography and I did not want my girls getting into that kind of work.