Ken Howard and the Bournemouth Beauties

Marie Graham
Marie Graham

Ken Howard was based in Bournemouth on the south coast in the county of Dorset. From 1967 until the end of the ToCo dynasty some ten years later, with the final editions of all the magazines in October/November 1976, he was by far the most prolific photographer for the series of titles; virtually every issue in the 1970s contained something by him.

Models he photographed, and may well have discovered, include Nicola Taylor, Marilyn Ward, Liz Harvey, Laura St John, Marie Graham, Pauline Gorvin, and several others. As is the case with Fullarton before him (see J.B. Fullarton), quite how and where he found his girls is tantalisingly elusive. Many of them were beauty queens – Marilyn Ward became Miss UK – so perhaps he was a beauty contest groupie, turning up with his camera at every event in the hope of discovering a star. Or, and perhaps more likely, it was just networking.

Nicola Taylor
Nicola Taylor

The content of his shoots are quintessential Spick and Span – up-skirt, stocking tops and knickers, though brought up to date to reflect the new age of fashion, with many of his girls wearing tights; and he managed to make them just as alluring and sexy, even with no suspenders to drool over (the outdoor sets with Marie Graham and together with Nicola Taylor are mouth-watering).  But his style was different – somehow more wholesome and less furtive – and yet more intentional revelations of such delicious items rather than surreptitious flashes: more “cop a load of this” than “oh you naughty boy! You’re looking!” And, like Fullarton, he also put his models into directoire knickers – though I suspect this was at the request of the ToCo masters. I doubt very much that any girls of their age were wearing them to excite their boyfriends, but they were the subject of many readers’ letters in Fullarton’s days and ToCo, mortified to see circulation falling, may have been desperate enough to try all the old tricks in an effort to survive. Another indication that times had changed was that some of Ken’s models had no qualms about getting their bra off for us, though not Nicola Taylor, who was never seen topless. Fullarton managed it with some of his girls, but they were never published. And Ken worked in the Swinging Sixties!

Another similarity with his Scottish counterpart is that every reader was very familiar with the inside of his house, even though they had never been there. Perhaps sequences of girls draped over G-Plan furniture were another ingredient that ToCo staff thought was indispensable. No photographer seems able to resist the temptation to get a pretty girl to lounge across the bonnet of a motor car. But more permissive times or not, Ken Howard went to as much trouble not to reveal his entire number plate as Fullarton did.

After the demise of ToCo, Ken turned to religion and hung up his camera. By all accounts, he would rather forget about that side of his life.

We, however, will never forget it

Below is an article taken from the April 1967 edition of Practical Photography. This gives us a little insight into Ken Howards work and life before he took up working with Town and Country publications later that same year.

Ken Howard Article Practical Photography April 1967

Ken Howard – 1967

Ken Howard, now living in Ensbury Park, Bournemouth, was born in Leicester on 18th February 1933, apparently during a snow storm. He was married in November 1954 and has three daughters, Rachael, Jackie and Pam, aged 11, 9 and 6 respectively.

He became Seriously interested in photography in 1951 whilst serving in the R.A.F. in Malaya where the elementary facts of D. & P. were first learned in the station education department darkroom. During this period, his Kodak Brownie camera was given away to a colleague, an Agfa Isolette II was purchased. The results from this camera were a vast improvement on his earlier ones but were only really a pictorial record of Malaya and its people. He made no attempt to create pictorial landscapes, an action now very much regretted. This Isolette camera gave sterling service until 1954, when Mr. Howard, on holiday, left it on a train and never saw it again. He bought another.

From 1954 until 1957 all films and prints were processed by the local chemist, then, in 1957, Ken Howard obtained a contact print kit. When he realised how much the chemist was making out of him, he decided to undertake the whole of the Processing sequence himself.

Mrs. Howard, for a birthday present, donated a Beta II enlarger and other presents including a developing tank, darkroom lamp, and trays. To ensure good results a Wray f/4.5 3, 3/4in. lens was obtained at his own expense.

The same enlarger, lens and tank are still being used, the only addition being an extension column to ensure extra big enlargements. The darkroom was then the bathroom and much paper was wasted in learning to enlarge. A neighbour then taught him the art of enlarging and also recommended the use of Adox RI7 film, followed by development in Beutler’s solution made up by himself. The results were a big improvement and Ken Howard was trying to create pictures, rather than shooting at everything and anything that caught his eye.

At the suggestion of his neighbour Ken Howard joined the United Postal Portfolios, and is today in the same circle for large prints, having also recently joined the whole-plate circle in the same organisation.

The Agfa camera was sold to his brother-in-law and a 1934 Rolleicord 1A became the tool in his hands. However, after 18 months, he decided it was a little too difficult to focus because of the rather dull screen and it was part-exchanged for a Rolleicord Va. About that time Mr. Howard started taking Popular Photography magazine and was also being asked to take portraits of people’s babies, (although now looking back to these prints he wonders why people ever bought them).

On 11 May 1959 Ken Howard visited the Photo Fair and bought the first edition of Photo News Weekly. Since then he has not missed an edition of this or of Practical Photography Magazine. A course was undertaken with Mallinson’s School of Photography and Journalism and he began to submit his work to a few magazines. The people at work—he was a building society clerk—began to provide him with a good number of portrait sittings and as most of the sitters were the office girls it’s not difficult to see how he became interested in the photography of women. To this day nothing gives him more pleasure than portrait or glamour work.

Mr. Howard went to Bournemouth in January 1960, to live and take up the job of staff photographer on a women’s magazine. This was short lived. Six months later the boss rang to say that Ken Howard was a luxury he could no longer afford and shortly afterwards the magazine ceased publication. It was then that he decided that he preferred to keep photography as a hobby and joined a finance company as a correspondent, his present occupation.

Whilst working for the women’s magazine he became used to Kodak materials and to this day has not changed. His favourite films are Veri-chrome Pan and Tri-X Pan Professional, both developed in D76. Prints are on Kodak Bromide or Bromesko paper, developed in DI63, according to the purpose for which they are intended. In 1964, the Rolleicord camera was traded in for a Rolleiflex with f/3.5 Tessar lens which he still has, and to this was added a Mamiya C2 with 105-mm Sekor lenses in 1965.

Until recently Ken Howard had no inclination to join a camera club, but a friend invited him to the local club and he realised that perhaps he could be of some help to others, rather than getting something out of it. He now finds it most interesting.

The majority of Ken Howard’s work that has been published has appeared in Photo News Weekly or Practical Photography magazine, although several cover pictures have appeared on other magazines, and a few illustrated articles have been used elsewhere. In 1966, 92 films were used by Mr. Howard, the majority of them weddings and portraiture sessions, leaving him too few hours in which to take, prepare and submit work for magazines. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than to see his work in print and this, together with the urge to try to produce attractive pictures, is the main reason for his output increasing each year by leaps and bounds.

Dianne Church

Living in hopes. Ken Howard has entered most of the national competitions each year but has not been successful in bringing off any of the major prizes. His biggest disappointment was the lack of success when submitting pictures to the national press, when his model Ann Sidney became Miss World in 1964. Not one picture was sold at this time, although many of the shots taken of Miss Sidney have appeared in Photo News Weekly and Practical Photography. Ken’s most recent model and friend of the family is the reigning Miss Thames Valley, Dianne Church of Morden. The picture of her in this feature is one of Ken Howard’s Personal favourites, showing her in the New Forest setting during a session where the emphasis was on modem clothes; glamour without the use of the usual swimwear.

Ken Howard’s “darkroom” is a 6-ft. square portion of the main bedroom which contains a “wet” table and a large cupboard which carries the enlarger and all the papers and developers. Before each session water has to be carried in from the bathroom, but this takes very little time. As his bungalow has central heating he has little trouble in keeping the Chemicals at the right temperature. On large wedding orders, Mrs. Howard is an invaluable assistant in developing the large quantity of prints. The same bedroom becomes a studio, the hall of the bungalow is used for the same purpose and for full length shots a roll of background paper is used on one of the lounge walls, allowing a 16-ft. room length for photography.

The lighting equipment for these “studios” consists of three 7-in. reflectors and one of 9-in. Two are clip-on types, on wooden poles, set in old Nescafe tins full of cement. The other two are both home-made, but also are of copper pipe and extendible. Visitors are most surprised to see the simple equipment he uses and the small area in which photography takes place, but whilst the results are satisfactory he has no need to enlarge his darkroom-studio.

So far a total of 105 pictures and 13 letters have been published, 80 of the pictures and all the letters in our Iris Press publications. Given sufficient time in 1967 he hopes to spread his interest to a few more magazines and sell some colour taken during the last six months. Whether he sells many pictures or not in 1967, one thing is certain. He will enjoy taking the pictures; a good enough reason for taking them.

This is Ken Howard’s favourite photograph, a picture of “Dianne” taken on a Mamiya C2 camera equipped with 105-mm Sekor lenses. Verichrome Pan rated at 125 ASA, 1/125 sec. at f/5.6, flash on camera.

Practical Photography – April 1967