Posts Tagged ‘erotic’

Sam Haskins Month Day 1: When art imitates art

December 1, 2009


“Kate in Jail”: one of the photographs that launched a thousand rip-offs.

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?


Photographed by Pompeo Posar: model’s name is Beth Hyatt

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.


By Tom Sorensen

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!

NSFW November: Monica Tidwell, Miss November 1973

November 20, 2009

Forgot that I’m going to run out of time and need to squeeze in some quadruple plays for the playmates lest we miss a Miss November. This one is super-special, so enjoy!

When the lovely and talented Monica Tidwell was born, the second issue of Playboy was fresh on the newsstands. This means that when she posed for the magazine in 1973 at age 19, she was the very first playmate to be younger than the magazine itself.


Photographed by Dwight Hooker and Bill Frantz.

This is a great spread. The photographers captured something very vulnerable and real in Ms. Tidwell (for my money the most beautiful Miss November yet), a sensitivity and gentle eroticism that lacks in many of the other shoots we’ve seen this month.

This is further carried through by the ambient lighting, the natural styling of her hair, and the focus on handmade, organically fashioned articles and materials like wood frames and wool blankets.

The whole shoot just has this really airy, sunlit, authentic, natural feel to it. It’s special.

Though she was discovered in Chicago (seems like they really had an active scouting scene there, doesn’t it? maybe because that’s where Hef is from? I guess one of these days I should look up the actual history of the magazine, huh), Ms. Tidwell was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and grew up in Georgia.

Like almost every other Southerner I have met or heard of, she had literary leanings when questioned about her ambitions. I don’t know what it is about the South that makes every person from there drip with this deeply poetic appreciation of nature and a playful love of language, but it seems to be a Thing.

I have met and loved so many great friendohs from the South, and they all have a beautiful, expressive outlook on life. (Dik and the LBC, I am looking at you two poetic ginger geniuses in particular!)


“One of my great ambitions in life is to write a novel as good as [Wolfe’s] Look Homeward, Angel. My second great ambition is to make a movie with Ken Russell and Oliver Reed.” (“Ubiquitous Miss,” Playboy, November 1973)

According to the wiki, that dream of making a movie with Ken Russell (visionary director of The Who’s Tommy) is half coming true.

Tidwell is currently the primary producer of the off-Broadway play Mind Game in New York City. Ken Russell will direct the play and Keith Carradine will star.


Hands down my favorite picture from this pictorial.

Good on her! An ethereal, Autumnal little beauty (I told you redheaded Miss Novembers are I’m pretty sure a Thing), she reminds me of Sissy Spacek or Bridget Fonda and Jodie Foster. All peaches and cream and spattery freckles with strawberry blonde hair, but then there is something rabbity and tough about them, like biting on tinfoil, something driven and hardscrabble, determined when it comes to their quiet goals. Sorry to project emotive qualities and wax poetic. I just love country girls.