Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Design Inspiration: Arne Jacobsen's Model 3107

Christine Keeler in a 1963 portrait by Lewis Morley - sitting in a knockoff of the Arne Jacobsen model 3107 chair

Arne Jacobsen was a Danish architect and designer best known for his contributions to the Danish Modern movement.  He is known for one of the most popular chairs in Danish design history, the Model 3107, which was designed in 1955.

The story behind how the Model 3107 was propelled to popularity is an interesting one.  A knockoff of the chair was used in an iconic 1963 photograph by Lewis Morley of British model and showgirl Christine Keeler, who was embroiled in a scandal at the time -- she was having an affair with the British Secretary of War John Profumo.  Discovery of the affair eventually led to the resignation of Profumo, damaged the government of conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and turned Keeler into a celebrity.

Morley recalls the photo session:
"This photograph was one of a series of publicity shots for an intended film which never saw the light of day.  The first two rolls had Christine sitting in various positions on the chair and on the floor, dressed in a small leather jerkin. It was at this point that the film producers who were in attendance demanded she strip for some nude photos.  Christine was reluctant to do so, but the producers insisted, saying that it was written in her contract. The situation became rather tense and reached an impasse. I suggested that everyone, including my assistant leave the studio. I turned my back to Christine, telling her to disrobe, sit back to front on the chair. She was now nude, fulfilling the conditions of the contract, but was at the same time hidden. 
We repeated some of the poses used on the previous two rolls of film...I felt that I had shot enough and took a couple of paces back. Looking up I saw what appeared to be a perfect positioning. I released the shutter one more time, in fact, it was the last exposure on the roll of film. 
Looking at the contact sheet, one can see that this image is smaller than the rest because I had stepped back. It was this pose that became the first published and most used image. The nude session had taken less than five minutes to complete. It wasn't until I developed the film that I discovered that somehow I had misfired one shot and there were only eleven images on a twelve exposure film. How this came about is a mystery to me. (Source)

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