Tennis Girl is a very popular image that is often used as a poster.
It is yet another photograph that had put me in dilemma of whether to write about it or not in my on-going series on famous photographs. Many Indians will surely consider this photograph to be obscene (and there is a fair chance that I get to see raised eyebrows of a few of my Indian friends). Like the Godhra photograph, I wanted to actually present it sometime back but delayed its release as I was in two minds. However, going by the same logic as that for the Godhra Riots photograph, I just am presenting it because it is indeed a famous photograph.
This photograph has been named “Tennis Girl” for the obvious reason. However, the girl in photograph was never a tennis player. In fact, she did not play tennis at all. Many people think that it is an accidental shot. But it was not entirely accidental. It was partly staged.
The photograph was taken in September 1976 by Martin Elliot. The girl in the photograph is 18-years old Fiona Butler. She was Elliot’s girlfriend at that time. Martin Elliot was a student of photography at the Birmingham University. He was in need of money when he got this idea of shooting Fiona’s pictures and sell them. Fiona consented to this idea. The guy asked Fiona to borrow a tennis dress, racquet and tennis balls and pose for him in the university’s tennis court. Fiona Butler borrowed this tennis dress from her friend Carol Knotts. Carol had hand-made this dress. She also gave tennis racquet and tennis balls to Fiona. Now Fiona and Martin went to the tennis court and Fiona Butler began to pose for Martin.
This is how the entire scene was set but the particular photograph, which is now famous as Tennis Girl, was an accidental shot during the photo session. Fiona was not wearing underwear and she unsuspectingly lifted her short skirt to expose her hips. It is not known if Martin Elliot intentionally took the photograph of this moment or he just happened to click the camera.
Whatever was the case, the photograph turned out to be a good one. So, Elliot asked Fiona if he could sell this picture as well. Fiona Butler agreed to this also.
Elliot sold this photo to poster printing chain Athena. The publisher included this photograph in their Silver Jubilee calendar. When this photograph was published it caused a great sensation! It sold 2 million copies. Not a surprise, most of these copies were bought by schoolboys to decors their rooms! Elliot however remarked that he himself would not buy such a photograph because it is voyeuristic in nature.
At the time of publication this photograph was considered super hot –but, as we know, going by today’s standard it is nothing. However it has not lost its appeal (just like Marilyn Monroe’s famous photograph).
How did you like this photographs and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring even more iconic photographs to you.