I feel like I should mention I’ve been putting these up out of sequence so I don’t totally spoil the plot for you. Don’t forget to add Sam’s Cowboy Kate and Other Stories, the Director’s Cut to your Christmas wish list. You can get it from Powell’s Books, Amazon, or get on a mailing list with Dashwood to see when they get another copy.
Archive for the ‘Cowboy Kate’ Category
Technically, the telling has more in common with a slick ballet sequence from a well directed film than with the conventional picture story. It flows and it tingles. It has continuity and superb presentation. It is made up of an agreeable mixture of fun and hyperbole, extravagance and restraint. Nothing is just plain statement, so that the reader has the pleasure of exercising his own powers of interpretation.(Norman Hall, review of Cowboy Kate)
Spiritually, it is a song of praise for the loveliness of woman and it has a lyrical fragrance which harks back to Spenser or Ben Jonson. In all there is a pervading sense of fun.
Sam Haskins’ legendary collection Cowboy Kate is beautiful, wild, incredible art. I believe you can see its influence in nearly every major photographer working in erotica and artistic nudes today, and the influence spills over in to other art forms (Sin City, anyone? — I will prove that point another day) as well.
It is all well and good when art imitates life. But what happens when art imitates art? And uncredited to boot? All hell breaks loose is what!
I have already pointed out the low-class ripping off of Haskins done by Pompeo Posar on the cover of this 1965 November issue of Playboy, but, not having a hard copy of the magazine in front of me, I admit that I do not 100% know for certain that there is not some tiny line of text buried in the masthead citing Haskins as the source of the idea, so I am only partially incensed on that one: jury’s out, you know?
Much more recently, some shit the fan when, on his very entertaining blog, Sam Haskins took photographer Tom Munro and the UK edition of Elle magazine to task for what is inarguably very blatant and unmistakable composition thievery, with an unforgivable lack of credit.
Of course there are those who say that imitation is the highest form of flattery but that’s garbage, when it looks like theft, tastes like theft and smells like theft – then guess what?
The May 2008 cover shoot for British Elle featured Madonna as Cowboy Kate. This wasn’t a case of ‘influence’ – dipping into my books for a spark of inspiration or developing an idea or a variation on a theme – this was plain stealing.
One of the highly disputed and disrespectable Munro Madonna images in question.
One monitor in the studio was plastered with images from my books including the iconic shot of Kate with her black hat over one eye and next to it another monitor with the copies – literally an identical copy of Kate, live digital images of Madonna from Tom Munro’s camera. This is as brazen an example of photographic plagiarism – straight forward stealing – as you will ever see.
left: Kate from Haskins’ book; right: Madonna in Munro’s shoot
… Arianne Phillips holds forth on “the concept” of the shoot without mentioning Sam Haskins or Cowboy Kate at all. The commissioning magazine Elle also stays silent in print and online. The photographer Tom Munro who, (at the time of writing ) has a Cowboy Kate rip-off image on his website cannot find the honesty to give credit. Many of his photographs are very ‘reminiscent’ of my work as well as that of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Sarah Moon and on occasion, David Hamilton.
Munro, you are straight called out! What is that like??
I wish I could say those are the only cases, but Sam Haskins is such a superfly amazing guy that he “inspires” slews of eager young b&w photographers. For example, Haskins aficionados on the tumblr have observed this well-liked picture floating about which is a clearly Kate-derived piece:
Via bebe le strange.
In every case now when that photo gets reblogged on tumblr, the text “This is such a rip-off of Cowboy Kate by Sam Haskins,” accompanies it. Yes. Good on them for spotting an imitator and making sure the original source got proper credit. It’s well and good to appreciate a new, well-shot photo, but when the roots are so clear-cut, it’s important to cite that source. Sam himself said so; come on!
Now here is how you do such a thing right: the company Valdés Wright represents fashion photographers. On their website they have a lovely portfolio shot by Tom Sorensen and produced by AVK, which is specifically titled, “Cowboy Kate 2008,” and described as, “Inspired by Sam Haskins’ famous 1964 book, Cowboy Kate & Other Stories, a beautiful outlaw eludes the sheriff while awaiting her lover.” Below is an example from the shoot, which is not very NSFW, so feel free to click through safely for once.
That’s how you borrow an idea while still gracefully paying homage. None of this sneaky stuff. Amateur hour with that Munro chicanery, I swar to gar. Can you believe that shit? I love that Haskins ripped him a new one.
This has been Day 1 of Sam Haskins Month!
Another playmate who began as a bunny, 1965’s Miss November was the lovely and talented Pat Russo, a Connecticut girl who modeled briefly in Manhattan for the famous Barbizon Agency(kind of scammy in my opinion but some real careers have started there, so I’m not going to hate too hard). She hated the cold, relocated to Florida not too much later, and said in her interview that, after one winter in Florida, “‘Autumn in New York’ was just another pretty song as far as I was concerned!” She was scouted for the centerfold while working at the Miami club (“Pat Pending,” Playboy, November 1965).
This is kind of a weird one. I believe that Playboy did two different photoshoots (very common), but the stylists communicated poorly … if they communicated at all. Here’s what I think happened with this shoot.
Maybe the people in charge of hair and makeup on the different days this shoot was done were in a fight and not speaking, or maybe they had a conversation about ideas for Ms. Russo’s “look” but came away without a unity of vision, or even maybe some other type of accident or act of God intervened vis-a-vis the two different colored hairpieces, styling, etc. I mean, the girl is blonde one time and solidly ash brunette the next; she doesn’t even look like the pictures were taken in the same year, let alone afternoon.
Whatever happened here, too much time has passed to tell. But the end result is that it appears from some of the pictures, when you take the spread as a whole, as though Ms. Russo could be two almost totally different women.
All pictures are of her, though — I verified it with her Yahoo! groups fan club leader (last post on their bulletin board was in December of 2006, but the moderator still checks his email, bless his vintage-pin-up-lovin’ heart; thanks again for the lightning-fast response time, buddy!).
Speaking of styling, the cover is a blatant and (I checked the table of contents) totally unattributed rip off of the magnificent, incredible, erotic work of photographer and personal patron saint Sam Haskins, specifically his picture book/mystery/western short story Cowboy Kate (1964). I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I am so genuinely bummed and perturbed by the fact that you might mistake the originality and brilliance of this composition —
— the parted lips which echo the round opening of the gun barrel, the swinging curtain of blonde hair beneath the rounded black cowboy hat, the always-a-great-idea toplessness — as belonging to some cover designer at Playboy (all respect to their often-clever work) and not to the living god that is Sam Haskins that I do believe, holy shit, you guys, December is going to have to be Official Sam Haskins Month! I will do my best daily throughout December to scrounge up some of my saved photos from his enormous and thought-provoking body of work that are either permissible or I can reasonably say are ads and therefore in the public domain.
Boy, oh boy! Let’s see if I can continue my streak of not getting sued before the year is up!
It’s nice to have goals.