Aug 272010

I went to University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) special collection to meet the women who started the oral history archive there, and read some of their transcripts  The testimonies of the various Las Vegas showgirls were amazing and addressed such wide issues from technique, upbringing, travel and visa arrangements, racism in Vegas etc.  They make for amazing reads and I managed to photocopy some of the best.  This made me wonder about using appropriated interviews too.  I’m not sure I have to be the interviewer, I’m just really interested in the voice of the showgirl.  It still doesn’t quite answer the question of what I will do with the interview material, but it got me thinking about it.

May 132010

Today I wore white cotton gloves and handled photographs in the research room at the National Media Museum in Bradford. I am looking at two kinds of glamour, a very perfect one, with dreamy colours, courtesy of Walter Bird, and a slightly more real one, from the Daily Herald archive.  The reportage of dancing lines, rehearsal stretches, promotional poses on beaches/airports/streets outside venues.  Something real slips into the photos unnoticed, working against the artifice, tearing a whole in the glamour.  For example a plaster on a bare foot on a girl in a line standing on some driftwood on a beach and a hole in some fishnets, close to the camera.  In a 1956 photo of Tiller girls resting during a ‘Royal Command Show’ rehearsal, rest their legs (neatly) on the chairs in front.  Underneath one pair of fishnets are white ankle socks. 

Walter Bird’s photographs however, construct a perfect glamour, the glamour of day-dreams.  Working before the WW2 he used an expensive colour process, Vivex, which I believe is one contributing factor to their loveliness.

There does seem to be a glamour peak in the 1930s.  By the 1950s, something, ‘common’ appears to have been invented, is it the film, cameras, lighting, hairstyles, costumes or make up?  Obviously technological changes in one or all of the above contribute to an erosion of the glamour aesthetic.  Which leads me to wonder, what and who makes glamour?