Friday, 18 June 2010

Beauty Pageant

Jamie-Lee Faulkner - Miss Leeds finalist 2010
by Peter Dench

The perfumed air wallops you square on the nose. The tongue quickly sticks thick with hairspray. Tongs fizz and click, heels clip and clop and there's enough fake tan to cast a small army of Oompa Loompa's. Welcome to Miss Leeds, a regional heat for the Miss England title. Beauty Pageants have always been high on the hit-list for Photojournalists, a classic subject. When the opportunity presented itself to shoot backstage at Miss Leeds I was genuinely giddy. I hoped to emulate the masters - 'Beauty Contest, Southport, 1967' by Tony Ray-Jones immediately came to mind, a bald old man with a fag sips from a cup, a distracted blonde close by. Martin Parr's shot from the 'Last Resort' of a snapper lurking by the bathing clad beauties and more recently 'Miss Southampton. Miss England competition, Leicester, UK.' from Zed Nelson's excellent 'Love Me' project all fanned my enthusiasm. I hoped to add my own iconic image to the archive. Disappointment then to hear the swimsuit round was abolished in favour of a more PC and rather 'GCSE Art' round of design your own eco-dress. Cue creatively folded newspapers, torn potato sacks and bowed bin-liners.

Beauty Contest, Southport 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones

from 'The Last Resort' by Martin Parr

Miss Southampton. Miss England Competition. Leicester, UK.
by Zed Nelson

The evening progressed in a snap and twang whirl of skin coloured pants, half eaten sandwiches and cries of 'stop standing on my dress.' My technique to shoot this type of situation is wide and close. No lurking in the wings with a zoom. Be able to talk with the subject. To me discretion is achieved by being in amongst it. To their credit the girls generally took it all with good spirit, the delightful Katie Farr, 23, eventually taking the crown.

backstage at Miss Leeds © Peter Dench

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