What's Going On Here?

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What's Going On Here?

For years, while hunting through the Getty database for photos to illustrate various posts, I have been stumbling across this photograph. Every few months I stop and ask myself: What is happening in this photograph?

The caption explains that it’s from around 1961: “A young woman unwinds before sleep with a few pages of reading from Edmund Ward’s ‘Summer Retreat’.” What I can’t figure out is whether this is supposed to be overtly sexual? Presumably it’s a promotional shot for the book, but the book wasn’t some scandalous, trashy paperback—it won an award for best first novel, and the author would go on to write “some of the most critically acclaimed and popular television drama of the Sixties and Seventies,” according to his obituary in the Independent. But as best as I can tell, the novel is about a Bohemian who returns home to his English hometown and (unwittingly) stirs up trouble, which suggests a certain level of raciness that would have qualified it for a more suggestive paperback packaging and, perhaps, this photoshoot, which must be deliberate? That’s the funniest thing about this era of paperback publishing: the covers were often wildly sexier than the actual content warranted.

Here’s another shot from the same series, similarly creepy energy:


And here’s another pic, totally different direction:


I guess that’s the early 1960s for you.

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