Rifling through packets of old and sometimes scratched negatives, you find that the best picture today is often the one that was probably rejected at the time. Someone walks into shot, one of the beauty queens is frowning or yawning or (as below) another photographer walks into shot.
This shot shows the winner, a Miss Joan Ashley, 21, of Mill Hill, London. But out of focus at the rear of the shot (giving it great balance) is one of the runners-up. Her pose suggests she may also be having her shot taken by another snapper. But maybe she is just contemplating her recent defeat. Either way, it is a beautiful photograph.
Please get in touch if you know Joan Ashley. I am looking for any Margate beauty queens from 1945-1995, including those who travelled to the town to compete. Contact me by leaving a comment below or email on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call on 01622 322007
My Beauty is a project about the beauty queens of Margate’s past, but it is very much one that concentrates on the photography of the time, too. After all, the SEAS photographic archive at Canterbury Christ Church University is a partner in my project.
Most of the images I am finding are those that will have been taken by professionals. The candid shots by beauty queens’ families are fascinating, but some of the unused and discarded shots by the pros are simply outstanding. Some packets show the editor’s pick marked up for print in the local press, but the throwaways nearly always show more history.
The above shot is of women waiting to take part in the 1960 Miss Margate competition. It is from a set of colour negatives in local historian Suz Foad‘s archive, with most of the other shots being standard beauty show material. Shots of the winners, shots of the line ups and shots of the judges. But this shot recalls the work of English photographer Tony Ray-Jones (who sadly passed away in 1971 at the age of 30).
Ray-Jones shot in black-and-white (and did shoot in Margate), but the colour image is certainly one you can image him taking . The photographer is capturing the moment and perhaps telling you more than he thinks. Ray-Jones may have composed it better, but you can judge for yourself by looking at one of his own candid beauty queen pictures in an article about a retrospective of his work curated by fellow-photographer Martin Parr in 2013. It is one of my favourite images by him.
Below is another shot from the same set of Margate negatives. It may be by the same photographer, although it is from 1968. Do remember to contact me if you spot any relatives in the photos (you may not have much luck with the below unless you know them very well!) I would love to hear from them, as well as from any of the photographers. Full contact details are in the About section, or you can just email on email@example.com.