Bettie Page and transgressive reverberations
This photograph/image of Bettie Page for a long time was something of a favourite. It’s Ms Page at her finest, feisty attitude-ness.
Back a fair few years before vintage and retro were mainstream cultural reference points and when the zeros and ones easy access of the internet was still in its infancy, I bought a photographic grade reproduction of the cover from a, well, vintage clothing stall.
For a long time I didn’t know any more about it other than the image itself – what the magazine was etc and due to the relative scarcity of cultural distribution at the time, that’s the way it stayed.
As an aside and now, due to the nolonger infancy of the internet I know that it’s the cover to a particularly scare 72 page magazine on Ms Page from 1963 (ah that year again, just as change began to gather pace).
Apparently printed in only 1500 copies, it seems to be one of the higher priced Bettie Page items out in the world. I expect you’d need to pay around £300-500 for a copy nowadays. Blimey indeed.
Due in part to that scarcity it seemed like a rare and precious thing but looking at it now, it seems to be a particularly iconic picture of a particularly iconic model – a distilling or honing down of the bad girl side of Bettie Page’s often wholesome cheesecake pinup image, though without moving into her more overly and overtly defined festishistic imagery.
Yes, it’s off its age but it hasn’t gained an almost harmless twee-ness that some pinup imagery from the time has.
In fact, looking at it again recently, this seems like a world away from the girl next door depiction of Bettie Page – this is a much more harsh, fierce beauty and sexuality that seems to reverberate and even have some kind of transgressive or subversive underground quality to it even all these years later.
It is curious how from all the models who were working at that time, Bettie Page and the imagery created with/by her seems to be something of an island of such things.