Hamilton – the Nudical…

A real-life “Carry on Camping

Regular and long-term readers of this blog might remember a post I did a few years ago about my wife Dido’s part-time career as a model, and in particualr, her role as the National Savings girl. Her modeling work coincided with her then-main career as a classical ballerina – a subject I have also covered at some length on these pages.

However, there are a couple of interesting and amusing facts and anecdotes related to Dido’s modeling which I omitted to mention previously.

This shot was used for the National Savings calander

Firstly; the fact that she fell into modeling accidently, when spotted and then approached on a street in Barons Court (in west London – near the Royal ballet School) by an advertising agency scout. And secondly; the resulting story behind perhaps Dido’s most high-profile photographic shoots, also for National Savings, in the naturist colony of Cap D’Adge in the South of France.

In truth, the story of Dido’s time in the colony is as much farcical as amusing , stemming from the fact that her employers at Dorland (the agency then working for UK National Savings) were unaware of the fact that they had sent her to a nudist village for the shoot.

We believe this was the picture used for the “People Like Me” series of National Savings posters and ads…

Dido’s blissful ignorance of her impending sartorial dilemma was soon disabused when she entered the establishment by several welcoming scenes, none more surprising than being greeted by the photographer himself “déshabillé”.

One might have thought that the fact the photographer was none other than David Hamilton*, famous then for his soft-focus depictions of young, often naked girls, and for directing and photographing the hit film, Bilitis (erotic or softly-pornographic, depending upon one’s sensibilities) just a year or two earlier, might have raised some alarm bells, but apparently not.

As a confirmed non-naturist, Dido got around the compulsory nudity policy of the colony by convincing both Hamilton and the management that it was imperative for her to remain fully clothed at all times to avert the risk of tan lines on her skin.  

When the Dorland team turned up for the main shoot the next day, they were similarly discomforted as their model (an angry Dido having decided not to warn them), a circumstance that led to a whole load of hilarious situations during the course of their stay – tan lines not being an available excuse for the director and his crew!

This was not from the official shoot, and just a bit of fun, and interesting, among other things for it being a very rare – if not unique – example of Hamilton not using soft focus.

Sadly, I’m not at liberty to divulge more than these barest details (pun intended), but one can imagine the sort of crazy scenarios that arose. Fortunately, despite everything, the shoot was a sucess as the very pretty photos presented here confirm.

*Hamilton’s now infamous reputation was unknown to everyone at Dorland at the time of the shoot, and he behaved with total decorum and professionalism toward Dido, both when dressed and disrobed.

Three different “daddies” for the daddy-less child…

My “first career”, MODELLING rubber products and other things…

In an earlier post I wrote about my wife Dido’s work as a model during her time in the ballet. What may be much more surprising for many of my readers and followers, is that I too had a brief career in front of the Hasselblads and Rolleiflex. For the first four or five years of my life, I was an occasional child model. In my case however, unlike my gorgeous wife, it was less to do with my photogenic qualities and more to do with the fact that the photographer in question was my mum’s brother, Sidney Pizan.

While the fact I was a cute baby and toddler (well, it’s true) was undoubtedly helpful, the main advantage for an aspiring commercial photographer based in the highly competitive world of 1960’s London advertising, was the fact my services came for free! The pictures here offer a record of what was in effect, my first career, and looking back at some of them now raises a whole gamut of emotions for reasons explained in the captions…

The man in this photo is my actual biological father, seen here together with your’s truly, my older brother and my mother. This was a government sponsored ad for the London Rubber Company (now known as Durex), as part of their 1960 “family planning” drive. Thus, the four of us represented the ideal British family, which was exquisitely ironic, given that my father’s take on family planning was of a very different order to that of Her Majesty’s Government. Within days of this shot being taken he had upped and left, and I was never to set eyes on him again. Even more paradoxical is that this is the only photo I have of him with me. The fact he’s actually holding my hand makes this an object of peculiar fascination. It’s also interesting to note in this context that my father was an advertising man, and years later, when we watched Mad Men, my mother would point out the uncanny similarities between her ex-husband and the Ted Draper character…
These are from an ad for Johnson’s Baby Powder. They date from shortly after the Family Planning shot. The hands and head are those of my much-missed, late mother, and for me there is a powerful poignancy in these images, well beyond any commercial “message”…
An ad for a very different kind of rubber object from the first. This was for Pirelli tyres and the guy driving is “my Pirelli father” – a fact I was blissfully unaware of during the shoot…
These photos with the late model and actor Norman Lambert, were my final turn as a child model. The ad was for Van Huesen shirts and if you look carefully at the image on the left, you can see that my eyes are swollen. Unfortunately, the director, innocent of my family history, early in the shoot, instructed me to “smile at daddy…”, causing me to burst into tears! Not only did it take about half-an-hour for me to regain my composure, it meant hours of work for Sidney’s touch-up photo-artist to “fix” my eyes. I should say though, that my Van Heusen “daddy”, Norman, was exceptionally patient and kind, and moreover, I was allowed to keep the set of wooden blocks. But after that, Sidney mostly resorted to professional child models, presuming they were made of sterner stuff!