Ed Templeton on 61 Pimlico
This is a web exclusive from the feature “PhotoBook Lust,” a collection of writing on photobooks and desire by artists, curators, and writers, first published in The PhotoBook Review 006. Read the Lust introduction by guest editor Bruno Ceschel.
PBR 006 will be shipped with issue 215 of Aperture magazine. Subscribe here.
Photographs by Henry Hayler
61 Pimlico: The Secret Journal of Henry Hayler
Portland, Oregon, 1998
I was in Sydney, Australia in the year 2000, and while in the Museum of Contemporary Art on Circular Quay, I stumbled upon the beautiful volume 61 Pimlico: The Secret Journal of Henry Hayler. It’s the story of a Victorian-era photographer who shot nudes that were a scandal in his day; the photographs were mostly destroyed until Bill Jay found a precious few images hidden in an old journal at a car-boot sale in Maidenhead, England. I couldn’t stop looking at the images, devouring the story of how they were made and the sex Hayler was having with his subjects. They are reminiscent of E. J. Bellocq’s Storyville portraits, but the faces are all hidden or obscured with framing or a turn of the head, as if the sitter suddenly looked away as the shutter was released. Many of Hayler’s sitters, it turns out, were society ladies who wished to be photographed anonymously in the nude, to what purpose I do not know. There are only nine images handsomely tipped into the book, and each one is oozing with a sort of clandestine naughtiness, seen through eyes that are new with discovery of the female form and the pleasures of the flesh.
I would return to this book often back home in California; the images haunted me. They still do. There is so much sex and nudity available at the click of a button now—any act or type one could conceive of is there, if you only search—making these glass-plate negatives and the time and effort that went into each one a thousand times more erotic, in my opinion. The social mores surrounding the time in which they were created make these nude photos a special kind of contraband. They continue to cause an ache in my loins that cannot be found on the Internet.
Ed Templeton is a California-based artist, professional skateboarder, and the owner of Toy Machine skateboard company.
The PhotoBook Review is a publication dedicated to the consideration of the photobook—focusing on the best photography books being published, from the coffee-table book to the handmade artist’s edition, and on creating a better understanding of the ecosystem of the photobook as a whole.