27
Jan
21

Photographs: ‘Women’ 1960s Australian 35mm colour slides Part 1

January 2021

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (1)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

 

Before lockdown struck Melbourne I travelled up to Daylesford (an hour and a half from the city) and purchased a Hanimex carousel containing approximately 88 colour slides of nude women, from an antique centre for $80. Mounted in Kodak Ready-mounts, the slide film itself has no markings – no number and no name, completely blank. These could therefore be dupe (duplicate) slides, where the film has no brand.

I have spent hours digitally restoring these slides for they were in a poor state. You can see a detail from an unrestored slide below. Unfortunately the colour has gone but I felt the slides were so interesting, so beautiful, that they were worth preserving. What makes them rare is that most of the slides are Australian, set on the beach and in the bush. I have never seen anything like them in Australian photography before. This posting features the most Australian of the slides with background of surf, sand and sea, Australian gums and fauna.

There is nothing prudish or smutty about these photographs. Despite the professional? amateur? photographer being almost certainly male (and all the appellations that the male gaze brings with it), the women are joyful when displaying their bodies, unafraid and uninhibited in the posing of their bodies before the camera. Here “the enshrining of Woman as a blank screen upon which the ideas and desires of both artist and viewer are projected” is balanced by the identity, presence and vitality of the women themselves. They take possession of their image, not simply as passive participants in the act of representation, but as active, engaged, powerful human beings who have a vital role in their own portrayal.

This posing has historical links to the history and photography of naturism (naturism is a lifestyle of non-sexual nudity, and the cultural movement which advocates for and defends that lifestyle. Both may also be referred to as nudism) and vitalist1, movements which sprung up around the world before and after the First World War.2 Examples of magazines and pamphlets from 1921-1949 can be seen at the bottom of the posting including an Australian publication, Physique Culture Art Album, c. 1936-40. As with early male physique magazines, early naturist magazines link the beauty of the physical form to the classical ideal; and being natural, in the sun, outdoors to health and vitality (“A Magazine for all interested in Physical Fitness, Hygiene, Diet, Sunbathing, and a Healthy Natural Life”).

Whether these photographs were for personal use, or for publication, remains unknown. Either way, the photographer has access to numerous models. In this posting there seem to be 6 separate photo sessions featuring different models – 1-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-22, 23-32, and 33-37. Numbers 1-9 and 10-14 may be the same model but I am unsure of this.

What I am sure of is this: the photographer is not some drongo who does not know how to use a camera. He is wonderfully proficient with a camera, an artist in every sense of the word. I just look at the line of the body in No. 4 and 5 and note the light, the placement of the figure against the background and the position of the horizon line, the elongation of the female form, the sensuous curve of the body… similarly, the beauty, suppleness, lighting and placement of the body in No’s 23-27 is a delight. How he fills the pictorial frame with the horizontal body in No. 25 with the knee touching the edge of the frame on the right hand side, the feet and hands touching the sand, the head thrown back and cropped, the upper line of the body following the line of the dam behind, the undulating curve of the upper and lower body mimicking the curve of the hand, low depth of field and beautiful light, is superlative.

I have never had the opportunity to photograph the female form but in finding these colour slides, rescuing them from oblivion, studying them, imbibing them, the process has given me a greater insight into the vitality and beauty of the female form, a deeper understanding of the anima (originally used to describe ideas such as breath, soul, spirit or vital force, Jung began using the term in the early 1920s to describe the inner feminine side of men),3 and of mother / earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ “Faced with ‘a queasy sickening feeling that all was not right’, by the fin-de-siècle many Modernists in America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Europe expanded the field of art into raw nature, ethnic communities and tribal cultures as vitalisers of energy that could be emotionally and creatively liberating. Following theories of Vitalism by Henri Bergson, Hans Driesch, Alois Riegl and Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘the vital state’ (‘l’élan vital’) became widely engaged for its conception of life as a constant process of metamorphosis, impelled by the free flow of energies able to generate what Bergson called ‘creative evolution’. Imbricated within Neo-Lamarckian ecological evolutionary theories, Vitalism was also embraced for being anti-rationalist and anti-mechanistic, particularly in its opposition to Thomas Huxley’s conception of plants and animals as machines, and its reconception of them as inspiring organisms within unspoiled nature, perpetually mutating into increasingly complex species and solidarist colonies following the Transformist concept of ‘life-force’.

Pitched against mechanistic productivity and repressive materialism, Vitalism spawned an expanding field of Modernist art in which artists embraced nature, intuition, instinct, spontaneity, chance, intense emotion, memory, unconscious states, uncanny vibrations, and a psychology of time. This pursuit was enhanced by the further expansion of art into Anthroposophy, Organicism, Supernaturalism, Magnetism, Eurhythmics, Freikorperkultur, Heliotherapy, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Nudism, Theosophy and Vegetarianism, free dance plus regenerative new sports and physical cultures. The artists exploring this expanded field were doing so … within cultures as geopolitically widespread as Britain, China, France, Iceland, Oslo, Switzerland and the Soviet Union.”

Anonymous. “Vitalist Modernism,” on the Association for Art History website [Online] Cited 27/01/2021.

2/ Body culture

The terrible physical losses and psychological traumas of the First World War changed Australian society and prompted anxious concerns about the direction of the nation. For some this meant an inward-looking isolationism, a desire that Australian culture should develop independently and untouched by the ‘degenerate’ influences of Europe.

The search for rejuvenation frequently involved explorations of the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the human body. In the hands of artists, corporeal forms came to symbolise nationhood, most often expressed through references to the art of Classical Greece and mythological subjects. The evolution of a new Australian ‘type’ was also proposed in the 1930s – a white Australian drawn from British stock, but with an athletic and streamlined shape honed by time spent swimming and surfing on local beaches.

This art often has a distinctive quality to it, which in the light of history can sometimes make for disquieting viewing. With the terrible knowledge of how the Nazi Party in Germany subsequently used eugenics in its systematic slaughter of those with so-called ‘bad blood’, the Australian enthusiasm for ‘body culture’ can now seem problematic. Images of muscular nationalism soon lost their cache in Australia following the Second World War, tainted by undesirable fascistic overtones.

In the 1930s Max Dupain responded to Henri Bergson’s book Creative Evolution (1907) in which he considered creativity and intuition as central to the renewed development of society, and the artist as prime possessor of these powers. Vitalism, as this philosophy was termed, was believed to be expressed through polarised sexual energies. …

The invocation of the Classical body as a modern prototype was a powerful idea in the 1930s. The Graeco- Roman goddess Diana, the virgin patron goddess of the hunt, was popularly invoked as an ideal of female perfection, and represented with a slender and athletic physique.

Anonymous wall text from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, July – October 2017

3/ Anima originated from Latin, and was originally used to describe ideas such as breath, soul, spirit or vital force. Jung began using the term in the early 1920s to describe the inner feminine side of men.

Anima: The inner self of an individual; the soul. In Jungian psychology, the unconscious or true inner self of an individual, as opposed to the persona, or outer aspect of the personality. In Jungian psychology, the feminine inner personality as present in the unconscious of the male.

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (2)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s? (detail unrestored)

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (2) (detail unrestored)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (3)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (4)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (5)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (6)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (7)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (8)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (9)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (10)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (11)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (12)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (13)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (14)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (15)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (16)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (17)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (18)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (19)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (20)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (21)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (22)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (23)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (24)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (25)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (26)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (27)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (28)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (29)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (30)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (31)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (32)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (33)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (34)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (35)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (36)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (36) (detail unrestored)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (37)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Athletic Publications Ltd. (London) (Publisher). 'Through the Day. How workers can easily increase their health, efficiency, and happiness' 1921

 

Athletic Publications Ltd. (London) (Publisher)
Through the Day. How workers can easily increase their health, efficiency, and happiness
1921

 

Vivre Integralement #103 15th October 1931 French Naturist Magazine

 

Vivre Integralement #103
15th October 1931
French Naturist Magazine

 

Health & Physical Culture Publishing Co. Ltd. (Sydney Australia) (Publisher) 'Physique Culture Art Album' c. 1936-40

 

Health & Physical Culture Publishing Co. Ltd. (Sydney Australia) (Publisher)
Physique Culture Art Album
c. 1936-40

 

Sun Bathing Review Summer 1939

 

Sun Bathing Review
Vol. 7, No. 26
Summer 1939

 

Health & Efficiency April 1941

 

Health & Efficiency
Volume XI, No. 4
April 1941

 

Health & Efficiency April 1941

 

Health & Efficiency
Volume XI, No. 4
April 1941

 

The Naturist May 1943

 

The Naturist
May 1943

 

The Naturist May 1943

 

The Naturist
Vol. VI, No. 6
May 1943

 

Sun Bathing Review Autumn 1943

 

Sun Bathing Review
Vol. II, No. 43
Autumn 1943

 

Rosemary Andrée. 'My Life Story' 1945

 

Rosemary Andrée
My Life Story
1945

 

 

British performer, actress, dancer and physical culture expert Rosemary Andrée. Andrée became known as Britain’s “Pocket Venus” and toured internationally in stage shows, modelled for Britain’s finest photographers, made home exercise movies for women and enjoyed great public appeal during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

 

Douglas Stewart. 'Beauty and Naturism' April 1947

 

Douglas Stewart
Beauty and Naturism
Paperback
April 1947

 

Health and Efficiency May 1949

 

Health and Efficiency
May 1949

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (38)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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