Cool Cats and Tom Boys: Ken Russell’s ‘The Last of the Teddy Girls’

©TopFoto/Ken Russell / The Image Works
©TopFoto/Ken Russell / The Image Works
The following images are from Ken Russell's January 1955 series The Last of the Teddy Girls
14-year-old Jean Rayner in the exploratory stage of Teddyism.

Long before Ken Russell, who passed away in late November, became the notorious film director responsible for Women in Love, The Devils, The Boyfriend and The Who’s rock opera Tommy, he was an art student and, later, a freelance photographer. In the 1950’s Russell’s work was published regularly in the preeminent British photo news magazines of the day, including Picture Post. After his work had been tucked away in his agency’s archive for half a century, Russell’s early photos resurfaced half a dozen years ago and received renewed interest with an exhibition at the Proud Gallery in London.

In 1955, the fledgling photographer created a series called The Last of the Teddy Girls, which featured photographs taken against the war-torn backdrop of London’s East End. The images are one of the first reportage series to be made of British youth culture, presenting pictures of working class girls in Neo-Edwardian dress—a fascinating counterpoint to their drape-coated and drainpipe-wearing male counterparts the Teddy Boy. The Last of the Teddy Girls also provided a rare and unique glimpse of a little recognized and under-documented subculture of austere post war Britain.

These quiet portraits—a direct contrast to Russell’s later bombastic directorial style—are an unexpected and exceptional historical record of cool. They document both the attitude and innocence of 1950’s youth and are an embodiment of the rebellious nature that Russell possessed throughout his life.

Related Topics: , , , , , , ,

Latest Posts

New York, New York. United States.October 17th 2014.#Dysturb New York.

Guerrillas in the Streets: The Dysturb Photo Collective Comes to NYC

Dysturb, a collective of photographers, takes to New York City's streets to bring photojournalism directly to the crowd

Read More
CARNIVORE’S DILEMMA PERMITTED USE: This image may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of National Geographic magazine dated November 2014 and exclusively in conjunction thereof. No copying, distribution or archiving permitted. Sublicensing, sale or resale is prohibited. REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: All image uses must bear the copyright notice and be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata, and must be accompanied by a caption, which makes reference to NGM. Any uses in which the image appears without proper copyright notice, photographer credit and a caption referencing NGM are subject to paid licensing. Mandatory usage requirements:1. Include mandatory photo credit with each image © Brian Finke/National Geographic2. Show the November cover of National Geographic somewhere in the post (credit: National Geographic) unless using only one image - you do not have to show the cover3. Provide a prominent link to: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/meat/4. Mention that the images are from "the November issue of National Geographic magazine”Beef is big in Texas. Last year in the state, ten times as many calves were born, 3.85 million, as human babies.At the Big Texan in Amarillo—which offers free rides in a longhorn limo—you get your 72-ounce steak for free ifyou finish it in under an hour, along with the shrimp cocktail, the baked potato, the salad, and the roll.

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 20, 2014

Courtesy Ginger Miller

#TIMEvets: Share Your Stories and Photos of Inspiring Veterans

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,500 other followers