Putting together a potted history such as this is like doing a jigsaw puzzle – or solving a cryptic crossword. Anyone who has done either will know how frustrating it is when things won’t fall into place because you can’t find a vital piece or can’t decipher a crucial clue. Even when we have all the pieces of the jigsaw, unanswered questions will still remain – and speculation will compete with speculation.
The Early Years
For the first few years, a number of photographers were involved with the ToCo publications, each title with its own apparent favourites. Spick credited Vilag in its first five editions, joined thereafter by Russell Gay for the next three, then, from August 1954, Peter Ross is on its masthead. With Spick 17 (April 1955), Vilag leaves the list and, after July 1955 (Spick 20), ToCo stopped naming photographers. Span never gave any credits and Beautiful Britons used Russell Gay and others.
ToCo also encouraged amateur photographers to send in photos of their wives and girlfriends – and even paid them; not a princely sum but an incentive at least. Many people owned a camera (far from all – this was post-war Britain, when mobile phones with cameras were the realm of science fiction) and so were in a position to do just that. But then what? They would have to take the exposed roll of film to somewhere like Boot’s the Chemist and come back a few days later to pick up their prints and negatives – from a shop assistant who would almost certainly have seen the saucy pics of Mrs Jones flashing her knickers. ToCo seems to have considered this and came up with a scheme to overcome the amateur photographer’s embarrassment hurdle; they offered a developing and printing service – “send your films to us and we’ll do the rest.” Price: 24-exposure 35 mm, developing and 24 prints − 15/- (75p in decimal but add 50 years’ inflation); other formats, developing and 12 prints − 7/6. What a job that must have been. And what a smart way to headhunt new talent and avoid agents’ fees.
There were many, many photographers whose work was shown in the 24 years that ToCo supplied us with regular, healthy doses of girls being naughty. The main contributors are described in their own page, but it would be remiss of me not to mention a couple of others.
Serge Jacques, the famous French erotic photographer for one. And the Master of them all – George Harrison Marks.
There is page after page about Marks, his career and his harem on the net, so he will not take up space here. But do Google on him and spend a couple of relaxing hours reading about the soft-core porn empire he created.
It would be unforgivable, however, not to mention that such delicious girls as Rosa Domaille, Sophia Dawn, Margaret Middleton and Lorraine Burnett all appeared in the ToCo titles by courtesy of Harrison Marks. But it must also be said that it is highly unlikely they were in shoots commissioned by ToCo – much more likely that they paid him a fee to publish them. Somehow, without Rosa Domaille, the collection would have been sadly incomplete.