Stanley Long, Vistascreen, and “Miss Continentale”
Stanley Long, a former photographer with the RAF and later a London assistant to several notable fashion and portrait photographers, was an extremely motivated individual. In his mid-20s, he joined forces with two brothers – Jeff and Jack Spring – to start finding new uses for the paper products that the Spring brothers’ small enterprise produced. Long’s first notion – in the early 50s – was to put out a series of monthly artsy (and tame) books of nude studies, featuring a variety of local models, likely recruited from the region’s camera clubs.
The book sales were successful, and it wasn’t long before Long suggested that they look into 3D. He had a classic stereoscopic camera – either a Rolleidoscop or a Heidoscop – and a vision. The camera had excellent optics and would have been capable of printing large – as in, Holmes-card size. But instead, Long decided to go small. Their main competition in the 1950s was, of course, ViewMaster. ViewMaster reels were in color and featured a wide variety of topics all over the globe. The downside: the system was relatively expensive in post-war Britain. Selling small-format B&W stereoviews to be used with a cheap folding viewer would undercut the ViewMaster entry point. Hence, VistaScreen.
Viewmaster went to the Pyramids of Giza, the Mammoth Caves, Angkor Wat, and the Swiss Alps. Once again Long decided to go small; his topics were generally from England, and he took most of the stereo photographs himself. This cut out the need to hire outside photographers and deal with copyrights and contracts. VistaScreen was initially successful, bringing the interiors of grand estates (which were only just then opening their doors to the public) into living rooms around Britain. Delighting children with scenes from the circus or the zoo. Providing souvenirs at various locations – just spent a day at Woburn Abbey? Spend a few bob and walk out with a time-travel machine so that you can return as you like!
Long had not forgotten his work in photographing models, nude and otherwise, and he brought this to the Spring brothers, who were initially averse to moving into this arena as they viewed their nude books and their stereographic enterprise as entirely separate. Nevertheless, they let Long produce (at least) 17 sets of nude / titillating stereoviews. VistaScreen issued 3 different series of cards for “adults” – all shot by Long. In order of rarity, they were:
- “Glamour Models”, 3 sets of 10 cards. These were basically cheesecake/pinup shots, often of women in bikinis, etc. These were occasionally featured in the catalogues of available sets. Today they fetch a higher premium than average zoo or model village sets on the collector’s market.
- “Art Studies”, 3 sets of 10 cards. These were a bit more showy, featuring figure models in tasteful “PG-13” poses. These were rarely, but sometimes, featured in the catalogues. Today they are rather hard to find.
- “Miss Continentale”, 11 sets of 10 cards each – the existence of the 11th set only proven about a decade ago. These were sets featuring a single model in a variety of poses, and included (artistic) full-frontal nudity. I have never seen, nor heard of, a catalogue which included these. Today, they are highly sought after by VistaScreen collectors.
The Miss Continentale series in particular did not have huge production runs. Advertising it made many vendors uneasy at relatively conservative time in British history – these came about a decade too soon. In point of fact, despite extensive research, I’m unsure as to who these were even marketed to. It’s possible that people who mail-ordered “Glamour Models” and “Art Studies” sets were sent a separate list of these sets, but if so, I’ve never heard of it, nor has any VistaScreen collector I know of. Selected shops did carry the other “adult” sets, but it’s unclear how – or if – these were advertised beyond word-of-mouth. In any case, these are much better, and more well-composed images than much of Long’s work – probably because he featured models that interested him, and he didn’t have to dash about and capture a whole city, castle, etc in a day. There aren’t really any throwaway shots here – compare that to “Chi-Chi the Giant Panda” – 10 photographs likely taken on two rolls of 120 film over the span of about an hour. Long’s passion shows through here, and these images work quite nicely, both as figure studies and as stereoscopic images.
Miss Continentale no. 1 – “Paula” – will be shown in this blog post. Brooklyn Stereography – and I as its author – take a positive viewpoint towards artistic nudity. It would be a bit hypocritical not to, as I photograph artistic nudes myself. In fact, the marquee image from that link is one of my highest-selling photographs to date. In any case, this is clearly not tasteless pornography, it is not intended to be sexual in nature – it’s well-lit, nicely posed art. In 3D. So nor this post nor any future posts that are not specifically pornographic in nature will bear a NSFW warning of any type. Unlike the Raumbild Warning I add as a courtesy to the victims of Nazism and Neo-Nazism, there’s nothing to apologize for. I would show these image to my niece and nephew assuming their parents didn’t care. If you see the word “nude” in the title, assume that you’ll be seeing nudes of some sort of the post. And with that said… let’s meet Paula!
Miss Continentale no. 1 – “Paula”
For the record, while these are VistaScreen stereoviews of superior technical quality, they’re still hyperstereo and hard to properly anaglyph. Free view as possible – use the glasses if you want to see them large.