Archive for August 30th, 2007

Athena Classics: Tennis Girl

My first job after leaving the bosom of my Alma Mater was in the Strand branch of Athena around the mid 90s. We stocked such ‘classics’ as Spencer Rowell’s ‘L’ Enfant’, along with stoner favourites such as ‘I like the Pope the Pope smokes dope‘, ‘Bank of Ganga‘ and ‘Take me to your dealer‘. The obligatory Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison shots and very zeitgeisty at the time was the ‘Choose Life‘ Trainspotting piece. All of which are still available it seems, and all of which were much loved at the time by the hordes of shop lifting teenagers from all over the world who’d ransack the store after their obligatory pigeon feed in the square.

The one poster we didn’t stock however, was Tennis Girl. We’d often get older city folks come in and nostalgically ask for it, only to have to send them away empty handed. Well you can own it again, but instead of £2 it’s now a £300 limited edition signed by the Photographer and printed on canvas, courtesy of Pyramid Posters. (Must need the money, I hate photos on canvas, they looks really cheap) And for the completest, you could try getting your hands on the original dress and racket as worn by Fiona Butler which didn’t meet it’s reserve price in a charity auction last year. There’s an interview with her here.

It’s an odd image in a way. Now derided by critics, yet emulated by comedians and popstars, it’s now firmly part of the national consciousness. It was at the time however, the rudest thing you could get away with on a teenage bedroom wall. Mr Elliot admits his poster is “not a picture I would buy”, but puts its appeal down to the seaside postcard spirit of the image, coupled with “one of the world’s fantasies that you are going to see up a woman’s skirt”. (source BBC). Diane Smythe makes a good point in her leader for this weeks ‘the naked issue’ British Journal of Photography about the impact of Levy’s ‘Raunch Culture’, is Tennis Girl the start of that? Or was that Babs Windsor in Carry on Camping? Or Abi Titmus? Or Manet? – discuss.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
August 2007