facebook youtube instagram

Sam Haskins (1926–2009)
Untitled [Nude, moving]
England, London, c. 1965
Gelatin silver print (exhibition print), 38 x 30,7 cm
Inscription in pencil on the reverse „Pentax Coll.-Nr. 8750-50-111”

Sam Haskins was one of the pioneers of nude photography during the 1960s. He worked in Johannesburg, South Africa until 1968 when he moved to London. His work was seminal for graphic designers and photographers alike, for example Jeanloup Sieff or David Bailey, but also for developments in the cinematographic picture language. Haskins preferred to photograph girls that were not from a professional modelling background and would pose naturally and confidently, sometimes moving, in front of his camera. He used blurriness and coarseness of grains as creative tools, which were essential to his image aesthetics.

A defining factor of his work was also the performative element: He often showed his images in feature-length, accompanied by music in slide shows with up to 500 medium format images. His two most successful publications were Cowboy Kate (1964) and November Girl (1966). He used an unconventional layout to show narrative sequences put together from series as well as montages of his nudes and landscape photographs. The content manifests itself over the images and their order.

The image at hand was taken around the time these books were published, where the lighting and blurring by movement are used to great effect. The photograph is comparable to some of the images in November Girl, such as the famous raincoat series (in which an opened black patent leather coat plays a minor part). Also the speaking (screaming?) expression of the girl can be found there.

With images like these, the history of nude photography started a new chapter, distancing itself from the formulaic Pin-ups or classic studio shots. Women still were the object of the covetous male gaze and hence a desired subject of photographic art, but at least they had a wider range of movement and this new freedom was a facet of the movement known as the sexual revolution.

Marie Röbl, © WestLicht

Lit.: Sam Haskins, November Girl, London 1966 (without p.).