While attempting to piece my childhood library back together, I stumbled upon mystery novel Tina Mannequin, Tina Model at a flea market in France. I bought it to compare the depiction of modelling in the early 1960s and nowadays.
Five decades before the Nordic Noir craze, Danish author A.B.Carroll brought suspense to French houses with the story of Tina, a goody two-shoes Danish teenager who only goes cycling with her friends after she’s done her homework, admires her dad and is concerned about her mum. One day, on her way back from a Copenhagen department store, she’s followed home by Ray, a star photographer who suggests she’s just the kind of beauty he’s been looking for and offers her a stint at modelling for an insurance catalog.
This isn’t the glamourous, high glitz life girls dream of nowadays when promised a modelling career but the key elements are there: she takes him up on the offer as a way of self-recognition, to quietly get back at a girl she’s jealous of and to provide an additional income for her financially struggling family. Tina is aware that her desirability as a model is contingent upon her look being in demand and that she might only have work for a limited period of time. The difficulties of finding the right pose, of being able to call upon emotions at a photographer’s whim is something many newbie models still talk about. Even Ray’s character, a cosmopolitan, worldly man prone to outbursts of anger isn’t far off the legend surrounding many a contemporary photographer.
The rest of the book is more old fashion. At its heart is a debate on the morality of youth, and the scandal of attending parties at friends’ houses without parents present or of being photographed in embrace with a young man. Doctored pictures are something no one believes in. Teachers are convinced students wearing bright colours is a sign of unrest whereas “they used to wear pastels in quieter times”. Tina has to bring her own clothes to the shoot, there’s merely an assistant helping with make-up and no stylist.
Tina Mannequin, A.B. Carroll, French translation Jacques Sorbets, Illustrations Françoise Bertier (Paris, 1962)