Monday, March 13, 2017

Nude Selfies Killed the Centerfold Star.

The framing format will become to Photographers what analogue recording equipment was to Record Producers: an influence and a constraint, fetishized in the digital age.

But that is not the point I wish to discuss. Because it doesn't involve naked chicks.

So: what was one of the most constricting yet recognized formats of still photography ever used in the last fifty years?

The classic Playboy centerfold.

The frame was not two but THREE pages, united as one severely rectangular shape -- approximately 11 inches by 24 inches, unfolded (2.18:1). As a frame of reference CinemaScope was 2:35:1...

While CinemaScope was wonderful for epic landscapes, the Playboy Centerfold subjects did not cover vast areas of, say, barren desert. That is because for most of the era women did not shave their pubic hair...

The Centerfold was used as both a horizontal and a vertical format. If the woman was standing naked: vertical. If she was naked lying on a bed: horizontal.

Sometimes the photographer would push against these constraints: for instance a side view of the woman on all fours. While primarily oriented horizontally, the pose would also fill the vertical space, with the model positioned -- physically compressed -- to not exceed the frame. I would figure girls with short thighs worked best in these instances...

Of course, the girl on all fours wouldn't necessarily now fill the frame horizontally, although a leg was usually extended backwards to help fill space, and provide a good look at the toes for the Toe Guys who like that thing. The remaining empty space was typically filled with a standard Playboy prop: a pillow, although robes, blankets and flowers could also be used...

One could argue that the frame format of the Centerfold lead to relatively chaste poses: a woman lying on her back with her knees spread wide would leave a lot of empty space -- a pose more suited for the less severely rectangular two-page centerfold, and was often used by the more extreme magazines that, coincidentally, used that very same two-page centerfold format...

Of course, now the standard frame format for nude photos is that of the iPhone: to paraphrase the Buggles, Nude Selfies Killed the Centerfold Star. I'll leave you to decide if that is progress...



I am Laslo.


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