Tomorrow's Crucifixion (1938) - Roye

Tomorrow's Crucifixion (1938) - Roye


roye was born in England in 1906. after an adventurous early life, which included a spell as a diamond smuggler in South Africa, he began his career as a professional photographer in 1931.

he settled in paris and his first major project was the launching of a cinematic casting directory, le plateau, which contained photographs of all the leading stars of the day including francoise rosay and mireille balin. It is a measure of the esteem in which he was held by the French establishment that he was commissioned to take the photographs for en provence: autour du moulin d'alphonse daudet, jean de la valliere's commemorative tribute to the important french author.

in 1935 he returned to london where his chelsea studio was patronised by a number of distinguished sitters including cecil beaton, james mason, arturo toscanini and sir henry wood. his spectacularly successful career as a photographer of nudes began in 1938 when he was approached by george routledge & sons who commissioned perfect womanhood, the first of a series of an internationally popular collection of nude studies. it was in 1938, at about the time of the munich crisis, that his notorious and groundbreaking nude in gasmask crucified by warmongers appeared in a regional london newspaper, occasioning much debate and controversy. later in the 1940s he was the first photographer to publish a nude study in the pages of a national daily.

at the outbreak of the second world war Roye was recruited by the Ministry of Information where he worked on a number of projects ranging from routine propaganda to more sensitive missions, one of which involved the composition of a photograph depicting a nazi officer in a compromising situation with two call girls. after the war Roye's career went from strength to strength and his own company, the camera studies club, continued to publish nude studies which were marketed by mail order in immense quantities, sales totalling in excess of 2 million copies worldwide. it was at this time that he was commissioned by the rank organisation to photograph all of their leading stars.

he pioneered the roye-vala 3D stereoscopic process and the most popular Roye publication employing this technique was the best-selling booklet diana dors in 3D. these and other studies provoked sporadic prosecutions for obscene libel, most of which were defused by the self-evidently harmless nature of the published material and the significant fact that Roye had co-operated with scotland yard in the tracking down of photographers trading in unquestionably obscene and depraved images. yet it was felt that he had overstepped the mark when in 1955 he published unique edition, a booklet in which, crucially, pubic hair had not been removed by airbrush as was the accepted convention for nude studies at the time. Roye contested the resulting case vigorously, and the judge shared the view, forcefully pleaded by the photographer, that the pursuit and representation of beauty should be untrammelled by prudishly petty considerations. the verdict set a precedent which freed Roye and all other photographers to this day from the more absurd constraints of the law.

roye retired to portugal in 1959 having summarised his photographic career in the immensely entertaining autobiography nude ego, which was published by Hutchinson. he had achieved international acclaim, and had travelled widely in canada and the united states where he was the first british photographer to address a photographic convention. on the home front he was honoured with a fellowship of the british institute of photographers. roye passed away on 11 June 2002 in rabat, morocco where he had lived for many years. --

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