Nova Magazine & Duffy

In January 2010, I watched a hugely entertaining TV programme about the photographer Duffy (1933-2010): ‘The Man Who Shot the 60s‘ (read about it on BBC iPlayer, watch it on YouTube – five sections). I’ve always been a great admirer of the work of Brian Duffy, who died later that same year.

He was one of the ‘Black Trinity’ in the 1960s – so-called by photographer Norman Parkinson and comprised of Duffy, David Bailey and Terence Donovan. This was a time when fashion photographers were more famous than the models, the clothes, or the magazines they worked for. They were the true ‘celebrities’ and not far from the image portrayed by Antonioni in ‘Blow Up‘. Duffy’s love-hate relationship with Bailey continues to the end of his life and provided some of the most amusing scenes in the programme. Donovan of course is also sadly no longer with us.

After an extremely successful career spanning twenty years, Duffy famously tried to destroy all his negatives in a garden bonfire in 1979. Stopped by the local Council, some thankfully survived and underwent a renaissance in an exhibition at the Chris Beetles Gallery last year. He had not taken photographs since then, up until the making of this BBC documentary when he got behind a camera once more, then aged 76.

One of the items in the programme related to Duffy’s work for Nova Magazine, particularly the infamous cover and photographs entitled ‘How to undress in front of your husband‘. Nova was a ground-breaking women’s magazine, published between 1965 and 1975, of which I happen to have lovingly preserved a collection of 31 copies, including the one featured in the programme.

I knew at the time that this magazine was special, hence the inclination to hang onto it for forty-plus years. Looking back on it now, it really epitomises the era and many of the articles would not show their age too much if published today.

This description of it, from an article entitled ‘The Greatest Magazine of All Time‘ by Kate Muir in Times Online in 2006, perhaps gives the best summary:

“Nova was a politically radical, beautifully designed, intellectual women’s magazine. In 1965 it discussed sex and the Pill, and epitomised the sophistication of London with its bold type and empty white space. There were 5,000 word articles by Christopher Booker, Susan Sontag, Irma Kurtz, and photographs by Helmut Newton and Don McCullin.”

So, as a tribute to Duffy, and because it doesn’t seem to available anywhere else, here is that May 1971 cover and article. The model, Amanda Lear, described as ‘the best stripper in Paris‘, has always been the subject of speculation as to whether or not ‘she’ was in fact a man. Ms Lear has always refused to confirm or deny this. Such were the times… click and enjoy.

The May 1971 cover of Nova


The article ‘How to undress in front of your man’, not ‘husband’ as it says on the cover, political correctness of the 1970s…


The first picture spread, photographs by Duffy


‘Flip book’ photographs by Duffy
The closing picture spread, photographs by Duffy


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