I have asked JH to give us his view of the - today more or less extincted - profession of a "girl photographer", his point of view on how it was to photograph the most beautiful of the beautiful, often in the most lovely places in the world, for the big magazines.
Here is his review.
“The dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago due to an asteroid impact.
The extinction of the species of the so-called "Girl Photographers" about 25, 30 years ago was not quite so dramatic, but for this profession the sudden change, in this case of the business model, was just as global and just as final as it was for the scaly lizards, and from today's point of view they had a lot in common with the dinosaurs.
From the seventies till the end of the nineties of the last century GPs were something like the rock stars of the visual media industry. Girls, girls, girls - sex and drugs and rock'n roll, just with the camera instead of the guitar. It was a worldwide very manageable group of freelance photographers, i.e. self-employed, freelancers in the truest sense of the word, who did the job of creating the picture material for "the big" girl magazines of the western influenced world.
PLAYBOY and PENTHOUSE in the U.S.A., but also with editions in many other countries ’round the world, other renowned magazines like LUI and NEWLOOK in France and Germany, EXCELSIOR in Italy, and others, and in the pornographic corner of course HUSTLER and many others more, from JAPAN to HONG KONG, from the UNITED KINGDOM to GERMANY.
And "girl photography", i.e. nude or sexy photography, was not only needed for these magazines. In the course of the social liberalization and sexual revolution of the seventies and eighties, the completely unthinkable happened, namely that images of scantily clothed, even naked or, even worse, fetish-clothed women also found their way into advertising and fashion, music business and general editorials.
What at first was still demonized by the conservative yellow press, especially in GERMANY and above all by boulevard papers like German BILD or the unspeakable British tabloids, was then within a few years part of everyday's life and was used just as shamelessly by the former critics.
Sex sells - after the hypocritical moral indignation had been exhausted and even the churches had not come up with anything new, this was the only thing that remained, the only thing that mattered.
Who had managed to belong to the elitist circle of the "Top 100" GPs (rather much less) and to stay in it for years (the business was brutal, and the competitors didn't sleep, God knows), experienced in this quarter of the century very lucrative and above all quite wild times.
Because the really cool jobs weren't produced in the studio. If the budgets of the clients allowed it (or, if you had the "right" clients with the fat budgets at hand), life took place in the most beautiful and exciting places in the world, between NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, the CARIBBEAN and the SEYCHELLES, in villas and castles, on yachts and beaches.
And it was always about photographing the most beautiful of the beautiful. Regardless whether today it was a job for PLAYBOY or next week an almost pornographic (by the standards of that time) fashion pictorial - objects of desire were always the most beautiful women in the world. The aim was to sell erotic dreams what, however, did not have much to do with reality and had nothing to do with the possibility of realization by the average man. It was all about putting such dreams in the picture to boost sales.
This world of "girl photographers" was, of course, a men's world in terms of its theme (women were always in front of the camera, behind them they only appeared very sporadically, like the legendary American Suze Randall), and it was an exhausting business. Guys with ideas of regular working hours or a priority family life (or any family life at all) had little chance. It was fought with very hard bandages and often also quite already criminal methods for commissions and fees, for reputation and fame.
Not only creativity or even genius, but also daring and cold-bloodedness, elbows and adventurousness, but also charm and good looks, good health and physical fitness were absolute prerequisites. But for him who brought all this with him and who was also willing to use it - what a life!
The expulsion from paradise came at the end of the eighties and into the nineties, suddenly and without a really clear forewarning. Although the tsunami of the impact first pulled the water back from the beach, visible to everyone and actually as a clear warning, before it hit back with tremendous force, hardly anyone really recognized the signs.
The picture industry which was spoiled for success and, as I like to admit, also quite megalomaniac (we were the champions!) could not really imagine that this new toy, complicated and at first understood by only a very few, the still often ridiculed computer, would fundamentally change everything.
Three intertwined terms are to be mentioned as effects of this new technology on the picture industry and as causes for its decline: internet, digital photography, globalization.
From a logistical point of view, the image business up to then was rather laborious compared to today. Transparency films had to be exposed correctly(!), carefully guarded during a trip, protected from heat and from the radiation of the that time still coarse X-ray equipment at the airports, and then correctly(!) developed in specialized laboratories (the latter sometimes went wrong, too, then everything had been for nothing), production or shooting errors were no more correctable by the photographer afterwards.
Contrary to today - the picture is immediately visible and can be taken again or corrected by Photoshop. And there was no "thinking" camera software, and also the analog photographing technology was primitive compared to today. A "good" photo depended much more not only on the creative, but also on the technical performance of the photographer.
From hundreds or thousands of photographs of a set, the best transparencies were selected with a magnifiying glass at the light table - and were presented to the client personally (which meant travelling) or sent (which always meant the residual risk of the complete loss - as well as a wrong development in the laboratory, the worst case scenario for any photographer, then even the best and most expensive insurance did not help, that client was lost).
That's why local photographers, i.e. those located in the same country as the client, were often preferred, unless they were among the really important names, among the Top 100. Then the first class ticket, the five-star hotel at the place of the editorial office, the champagne at the editor-in-chief played no role at all, even sometimes with a subsequent visit to the brothel, or by chance there were some playmates present.
With the rise of digital photography, all these problems suddenly disappeared - as well as the amenities associated with the Top 100, such as first class airtickets and hotels, expensive champagne, brothels and bunnies. Photos were now immediately available, on the set the shots could be checked in real time and if necessary repeated immediately, and the dispatch took place simply by CD-ROM or even online on the Internet, also in real time (the business became fast), and without the risk of losing the original pictures.
This in turn meant globalization - the business was suddenly possible from any remote corner of the world to the metropolises, without risk, without loss of time. As a result, the number and diversity of suppliers and customers grew enormously. And, even previously undiscovered talents could now present themselves effortlessly and often sucessfully.
Okay, having been among the "Top 100" usually meant being better than others in terms of technical, creative, organisational and psychological expertise as well as - very importantly - in terms of leading people on the set. Psychological? Yes. Professional models can be bitchy! If you weren't good at all these things, you usually had no chance.
But even these selection criteria suddenly no longer counted, because "digitization" now also meant "problem-free image editing". Error correction, which was previously only done by expensive specialists in specialized companies after scanning the transparencies (if at all, the publishers often shied away from these costs), could suddenly be carried out by almost any fool after a short introduction thanks to image editing software, even to a certain extent the camera already did the job automatically.
This development led to the fact that almost overnight suddenly a mass offer of billions of photos of every kind was available, easily selectable and deliverable with a mouse click. And what didn't fit was made to fit digitally, often so much that the original was hardly similar to the final product. Which, by the way, again posed completely new legal problems. But the main factor was availability - and cheapness.
Because - and this was the decisive factor - this change in the business model inevitably ended the period of large budgets. If clients do not have to spend money, of course they do not. Paradise was also dried up economically. "Top 100" dinosaurs were usually no longer the youngest (they had fought over many years for belonging to this rare species), and not everyone succeeded in this learning process.
Those who did not give up immediately (many of the older dinosaurs could not adapt to the digital age) tried to survive in the new world. But also the change to the new technologies made no real difference. They quickly had to realize that they could buy such expensive digital cameras, computers and programs, that they could still make such an effort to master hardware and software - the old days were over, the gates of paradise had closed forever.
Now, compared to earlier times, suddenly the picture business was only a low-cost routine, and even for these the initially still incredibly expensive purchase and the perfect mastery of the new technology was an absolute prerequisite. The "Top 100" were replaced by "any 100,000", especially by young people who grew up with computers at school, and within a few years many of the dinosaurs died out on business.
Also the huge transparencies archives that most photographers had created - besides of the commissioned photography the so-called "second print" of existing photos was usually the second business mainstay of a photographer - suddenly lost their until then immeasurably high value. Because which publishing house wanted to do itself still the laborious and costly business with years-old transparencies and the expensive scanning, if world-wide astronomical quantities of fresh digital photos were available almost for free.
If at all, now more and more ridiculously low amounts were paid for it, so that even the scanning of the transparencies by the photographer himself and sending the scans to possible clients was no longer worth it.
Another reason for the decline was a second effect of the internet on this business. Because, which buyer still spends today money at the newsstand for an expensive "glossy magazine" with some tame photos of naked women, a bit of fig leaf literature and above all a lot of advertising, when he as a "user" finds millions of naked facts on the web, hard core, of really every kind and perversity, and often for free or hacked.
Hand in hand with the decline in sales, the magazines lost their optical, technical and creative quality, which had been outstanding up to then. "Outstanding" could no longer be financed, the business became any mass business with the hope of still a little profit. For even if glossy magazines have survived at least in part to this day, they are on the drip, often shaken by red numbers, tired flagship whose budgets are often only supported by the company's other products.
I myself had diversified at an early stage - and that was no foresight on my part, also I had no premonition of this development, of this impact, but it was simply a happy coincidence.
Not only had photography always been my interest and my business, but I had also been in television and as an author and journalist for years.
And I had been interested in computers, internet and digital photos at a very early stage, from about 1990 onwards with early Macs, and then from 1997 with the new Power Mac G3. I had already a photo website in the nineties of the last centuries.
The impact of the asteroid therefore perhaps did not pass me by as a side note, but without serious or even catastrophic consequences.
But, however, until then, as long as the analog photographic business was buzzing, it was infinitely more than just a means of printing money. Those decades were a huge adventure, and they would also have been worth it if budgets had written smaller numbers. A what-costs-the-world trip, full of dangers and risks, but also - and this more than made up for all concerns - full of exoticism and eroticism, luxury and vice, and always with the most breathtaking women.
Yes, yes, I know, in times of political correctness and #metoo this sentence is a sacrilege for some. But I am proud to have always and today more than ever said my opinion, even if it does not correspond to the adapted mainstream. Life has given me many incredible experiences in fascinating places, which a normal life does not hold ready for us.
And especially today not at all anymore, in the age of the all inclusive, the arbitrariness, the monitor-presented substitute satisfaction by Facebook, Instagram and Co.
But one had also to be ready for it. Because one who preferred to pursue a career as a civil servant would certainly not have been the right person for this. Uncomprehendingly shaking his head, he probably wouldn't understand the way of thinking of a "freelance photographer", in his eyes rather a madman, just as a bourgeois family father doesn't understand that there is nothing more important for a real surfer than to ride the "perfect wave" once, even if it should cost his life, and that he subordinates everything else to this thought.
And, in this context and for this website, JH adds:
“I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to my teams in my studios in HAMBURG and HOLLYWOOD, on the sets on my travels, and on my rainforest expeditions, without which many of my photo and film productions would not have been possible.
Camera operators, photo assistants, lighting technicians, not to forget the best boys, make-up artists, stylists, casting agents, office secretaries, caterers, roadies, drivers, guides, guards… they all did their best to support me.
Especially I would like to thank my office and studio assistants for many long years, my left and right hands Yvonne Wilmot and Inga Svensson.
My very special thanks goes to exceptional Natalia!
A young and unusually gifted make-up artist trained in HAMBURG/GERMANY and in SANTA MONICA/CALIFORNIA, started working with me in my HAMBURG studios, later also in HOLLYWOOD, and she always provided a perfect professional make-up for my models. In HAMBURG or HOLLYWOOD, in NEW YORK or MILANO - nowhere and never I have met a better make-up artist.
Later Natalia! became a global model and television actress - and my muse. Especially in the field of rubber fetish photography I owe her countless unique, outstanding pictures.
Today Natalia! is the icon of rubber fetish, a globally renowned Rubber Mistress. www.natalia.pro
And above all: how can I express my gratitude and love to my wife Helena, who has been and is the light of my life for many years? This is hardly possible, and I am inexpressibly grateful that she is at my side.
This website was newly established in 2020.