Photographed by Dwight Hooker.
In the early days of the internet and the design of graphical interface, a cropped version of Miss Sjööblom’s centerfold, famously known as “Lenna,” was the standard test image by which graphic designers measured and compared advances in color, transitions, uniform regions, and sharp edges.
In the early Seventies, an unknown researcher at the University of Southern California working on compression technologies scanned in the image of Lena’s centerfold. Since that time, images of the Playmate have been used as the industry standard for testing ways in which pictures can be manipulated and transmitted electronically.
Over the past 25 years, no image has been more important in the history of imaging and electronic communications, and today the mysterious Lena is considered the First Lady of the Internet (“The Search For Lena: Discovering one Playmate’s role in the history of the Internet,” Playboy Enterprises, 1997).
“The use of her photo is clearly one of the most important events in the history of electronic imaging,” [President of the Society for Imaging Science and Technology Jeff] Seideman said. Image compression is what has made the World Wide Web the wildly popular communications medium it is today.
Seideman adds that he is working with Playboy’s archivist to re-scan Lena’s image and compile all the missing information, including everything from the type of photo emulsion used to make the print to the technical specifications of the scanner.
In this way, Seideman says, the image of this Playboy Playmate can remain the standard reference image for comparing compression technologies into the 21st century.
This is Lena Söderberg these days, pictured with the loveable dork who tracked her down for his imaging conference.
Lena has said that she finds her celebrity status amusing and has made no move to cash in on whatever cache might be got from it. She is content to keep her job working with the handicapped for the government in Stockholm, Sweden and living with her retired husband. Sometimes good things happen to perfectly normal people: what a welcome respite from the would-be reality stars and Paris Hilton wannabes choking up our malls and bars and television sets, desperately clawing at one another for a shot at even thirty seconds of fame. All’s well that ends well!