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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 2

About a month after John Jackson transferred me from the art department so that I might sit in an office alongside Shirley, Ann and Linda, Girl magazine gained a new staff member – she turned out to be Sally Brompton who amongst other things had been charged with writing a weekly column called “Mandy Brown’s Merry-Go-Round”.

Some time around late August or perhaps it was during early September of 1962, Sally and I sloped off to Sydenham, south London to interview Linda Ludgrove, a 14-year-old who was attracting attention due to her keenness for swimming. On hearing about my proposed trip, Terry Smith of UPPA asked me to take along one of their 5” by 4” plate cameras so that Linda Ludgrove’s portrait could be added to their ever-expanding library.

There hadn’t been that same urgency from UPPA when, six months later, Genevieve Gamby had executed a very fine back-bend for our benefit . . . but then, the antics of a Bertram Mills Circus acrobat’s daughter wasn’t likely to suddenly appear on ITN’s News at Ten!

You will have read in “Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Seven” – about how I’d had some of my animal pictures published on the back page of Robin during 1962. These pictures came about due to my father-in-law of little more than two years – Arthur Edscer – (and who liked to call me “Prölss”) who appeared to have great faith in the activities of a certain Yours Truly. And so, when the son of some Norwegian acquaintance had knocked upon his door in dire need of wishing to raise funds in exchange for his Hasselblad camera, Arthur had asked if I would benefit from having the use of such an extraordinarily fine piece of Swedish kit.

In case you are unaware, perhaps I ought to mention that almost all the still photography captured during the Apollo missions to the Moon were carried out using Hasselblad cameras . . . but that they’d had certain modifications carried out by NASA technicians before blasting off from Cape Canaveral on their stunning jaunt.


The camera he bought from this chap was an earlier version in the Hasselblad range and it would be impossible to know exactly what sort of wear and tear it had previously been subjected to. But it was, of course, Sod’s Law that part of the mechanism let me down miserably while I was using Arthur’s latest pride and joy. It was something called a focal plane shutter system through which the amount of the light being allowed to pass through the camera was controlled by two blinds (sometimes known as curtains) – the gap between them could be adjusted to a wider or narrower degree depending upon the amount of exposure one needed for the perfect image. Later versions of the camera had the shutter system built within the lens itself – a multi-bladed iris that, on pressing the release button, allowed the light to pass through to the unexposed film in pre-determined amounts. This is different to the adjustment of the aperture, this being the size of the lens opening which also controls the amount of light reaching the unexposed film.

Still, I had been able to earn extra funds by using it; it had broken while it had been in my care and therefore it was only fair that I should get the camera repaired. The place I chose was Pelling & Cross, whose retail outlet was in Baker Street, about 200 yards down the road from Baker Street Underground Station and close to where Marks and Spencer had their head office.

While it was being repaired, Pelling & Cross kindly loaned me (at no extra charge) a rather battered Rolleicord camera that had seen better days. The Rolleicord was a popular medium format twin lens reflex camera made by Franke & Heidecke (Rollei), a simpler, less expensive version of the Rolleiflex aimed at amateur photographers who wanted a high quality camera but could not afford the expense of those from the higher-end of the range.

At around the time when Pelling & Cross had said that the Hasselblad would be ready for my collection, the phone on my desk rang:

“Mr Perry, Pelling & Cross here. Erm . . . have you by any chance been in to collect your repaired Hasselblad yet?”

“No, not yet . . . I was rather waiting for you to call me.”

“Oh . . . oh dear. Erm, I wonder if I could ask you to call in on your way home tonight.’

This I did, and it transpired that, that very morning, Arthur’s Hasselblad – together with several other repaired items – had been delivered to the Pelling & Cross basement. It was assumed that minutes later, some dastardly, unscrupulous sole had strolled in, calmly hung it over his shoulder and walked off with it. Still, to give them their due, Pelling & Cross replaced what had been stolen with a better, up-dated version of the Hasselblad, so my father-in-law did quite well out of it. Mind you, the story doesn’t end quite there.

Using Arthur’s Hasselblad had been quite a responsibility. Not only that but it was a studio camera rather than something to be used out and about in the field. So, a few days later on my way into work, I went back to Pelling & Cross with a view to finding out how much they wanted for the Rolleicord I had been borrowing. They wanted £65 . . . but to be frank, blemishes such as the lengthy cigarette burn along the back of the brown leather carrying case were rather off-putting for that price.

While I pondered over the situation, a fellow strolled in and, producing an almost brand-new Rolleiflex, asked the assistant if Pelling & Cross would be interested in buying it – he was strapped for cash and was hoping to raise some. “I’ll have to check with my manager,” said the assistant and went off through a side door. While he was gone, I murmured to the guy out of the corner of my mouth: “You’re selling that? How much do you want for it?”

“I was hoping to get £50. I have all the original receipts.”

“Good God, and they want £65 for this thing. There’s a café about halfway between here and Baker Street Station called The Wishing Well. If Pelling & Cross aren’t interested, then I will meet you there in ten minutes or so.”

Well, the outcome was that Pelling & Cross wasn’t interested and the chap left; and I then said to the assistant that I needed to think further about the price of the Rolleicord. Fifteen minutes later, after carrying out all the nitty-gritty at The Wishing Well, I became the proud owner of this unknown man’s Rolleiflex. He, too, was pretty chuffed as I had given him an extra £10 on top of the fifty he’d originally hoped for. That camera has earned me several thousands over the years and it has never ever let me down.

1964 and 1965

You will have read in “Eagle Daze Part Three: WHAM!, the end of Girl, and Max Clifford’s World of Pop” of how – usually on a Friday evening – Max and I had regularly visited the Wimbledon Palais so that we might capture exclusive pictures of solo artists and groups that had been booked to perform there. From the photos I had captured, groups such as The Moody Blues, The Pretty Things, Slade and solo acts in the shape of Jerry Lee Lewis had appeared within the pages of Girl and, later, in Wham! I suppose the most notable group was The Rolling Stones, whose popularity by that time was such that they had to come onto the stage via a back door. They’d carried out their act to perfection and, within seconds of completing their final number, had left via the same back door and had headed off into the night before anyone realised.

I had been forewarned of what was likely to happen, and so, having stood upon the stage with Mick, Keith, Charlie, Brian and Bill, I had snapped merrily away to my heart’s content.

1967 and 1968

By this time, I had not only moved away from 96 Long Acre but had now become Art Editor for Book Section of Century 21 Publishing. During my first year there, while putting together a Topo Gigio Christmas annual, it had been at my suggestion that thirteen pages of this book could be devoted to an A, B, C of animals – two letters / animals to a page – for I already had quite a collection of animal photographs. The idea was that apart from the animal depicted, either my ‘Number Two’ Andy Harrison or I would superimpose a hand-drawn, coloured image of Topo Gigio doing something suitable such as eating a banana alongside the hapless chimpanzee.

Many of these animals were relatively easy to find . . . particularly when the choice of animal begins with the more common letters. Take the letter “B” for example – bear, bison, beaver, baboon, badger, bat . . . I won’t say that the list is endless, but as you can see, the choice of subject matter that begins with some letters is quite wide . . . but how about animals beginning with the letter “N” . . . or the letter “U”? I’ll tell you quite frankly, you won’t get too far on those two . . . and we didn’t have the advantages of the internet to help us find the most obscure creatures in those days.

For the letter “N”, I chose nilgai as it had been far easier to photograph than a newt. And for the letter “U”, I decided upon an upupidae . . . both of which could be found at London Zoo. I did in fact have a second zoo on my doorstep – Whipsnade – a magnificent zoo where the animals can roam freely in huge, rolling Bedfordshire fields. But on this day, I’d gone to the one in London based as it was at the northern end of Regent’s Park. While there, I also wanted to grab images of an Orangutan. On these occasions, the right and proper thing to do was to go straight to the Press Office, for by doing that, not only does one get the ‘Official Seal of Approval’ but also I could get to do things that the general members of the public couldn’t.

I had gone there in November, and many of the permanent residents were already housed inside their winter quarters including the Orangutan. So it was into their super-heated enclosure that I’d had gone. But before going into the enclosure, the keeper handed me a mask requesting that I put it on.

“Oh,” I said in all innocence, “does he have something wrong with him?”

“No,” replied the keeper, “and I’m trying to keep him that way – I don’t want him catching anything that you might have!”

Charming! Anyway, with the shoot over and was about to go outside, the keeper turned to me and said: “If you want to photograph a real Monkey, there’s one standing over there!”

I’d not twigged what he was saying at first, but as I crossed over the quite large expanse of concourse, who should I find there . . . none other than Mickey Dolenz. I believe it might have been a press photo-call, but if it was, then it was being poorly attended. After capturing a large number of shots that I felt could be used for the Monkees Annual that we were currently putting together, I went back to the office with several rolls of exposed film and the news of what I had discovered.

This led to a bit of an argument – not with me I should quickly add, but with the agency who had granted Century 21 Publishing the rights to produce a number of books in exchange for the guaranteed royalty payment. But the agency had failed to inform us of Mickey Dolenz’s appearance in the UK . . . or the fact that the other three Monkees would be arriving from the States any day now.

I will admit that the agency’s slap-on-the-wrist had proved fortuitous, for the result was that, within days, I was being invited to Press Conferences for The Beach Boys, The Osmonds (before Donny became so popular), Nancy Sinatra and a whole host of others. I rather think that the E L O – the Electric Light Orchestra – had come in that line up too, but when these stars began to trundle through like so many items on a Sainsbury’s Check-Out counter, then sadly – unless something outstanding happens – one begins to forget.

Roger Perry
The Philippines 

Coming soon: In Part Three, the job Doug Luke had been doing at the film studios in Slough, Dennis Hooper asks if I would consider taking it over.

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