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Kenneth Bandy - The Backstage Cameraman at the Windmill Theatre

Photography Magazine, August 1956

Windmill Theatre Feature

The Backstage CameramanThe Backstage Cameraman

 

Windmill Girl Vicki Darnell relaxes in a Finnish Sauna bath.As the publicity boss of the Windmill theatre, Ken Bandy requires quite a large number of specialised photographs of the girls in the show. He makes quite sure that he gets the kind of thing he needs by taking the pictures himself. With exclusive use of this photographer's paradise he has worked out the job of stage cameraman to a fine art.

Right - Windmill Girl Vicki Darnell relaxes in a Finnish Sauna bath.

Denise Warren poses for a Bandy pin-up picture.THE fantastic story of London's Windmill Theatre has been told in other places. When, next February, it celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, people all over the world will recognise the event as a milestone in theatrical history.

Left - Denise Warren poses for a Bandy pin-up picture.

Vivian Van Damm's non-stop, six-shows-a-day revue is famous for many things. It kept its doors open throughout the London blitz, as most people know; the beauty and freshness of its girls is accepted as one of the tourist attractions, like Eros or Big Ben; even its incredible record as a nursery for new talent is pretty widely known. But there are lots of other reasons for its continued success, as we have recently discovered.

Ken Bandy, Press Representative and Director of Publicity has worked with Van Damm since 1926—starting in an industry which involved supplying sound effects for silent films. He was House Manager of the Windmill before the war, and, when he came back from service with the RAF in 1945, the association was resumed. Since then he has managed to keep the press-cutting services busy with a spate of stories and pictures which appear regularly in all the leading national, provincial and Continental papers and in publications which are published in such faraway places as Borneo and Bulawayo.

Sadie CombenSylivia Barber

 

Above - Sadie Comben and Sylivia Barber in a saucy Can-Can movement.

Doris Deal, Jill Turner, Vicki Darnell, Yvette Davis in the wings.Says Ken : 'Photography is a very important part of the present-day theatre'.

And no one has proved this more than he has himself. As a photographer he is unique. His pictures are shown regularly in the world's press and he has a public oneman-show on view day and night, all the year round, within a stone's throw of Piccadilly Circus. Yet, he has never tried to have a print shown in the usual type of photographic exhibition.

Right - Doris Deal, Jill Turner, Vicki Darnell, Yvette Davis in the wings.

Ken Bandy started in photography 'as a raw amateur'. In 1935, he was using a standard lever-wind Rolleiflex, taking occasional pictures for the Press and sometimes experimenting with stage shots. The latter appealed to Van Damm and so the Windmill found itself with a resident photographer—an arrangement which worked admirably until 1940.

Ken became his own photographer again nearly three years ago, and ever since then the Windmill has had the type of pictures it needs for front of the house display, press and publicity circulation and for illustrating the souvenir booklets sold during the performances.

`Previously', he says, 'we used to rely on press and stage photographers. It is almost impossible for outsiders to get the exact shots wanted. Even if you stand beside a photographer, the picture you see is not just the same as the one taken by the camera. By standardising equipment, working during dress rehearsals (thus saving the need for special photo-calls), we save time and money—and we are getting the pictures we must have, in black and white and colour'.

The eternal Can-Can is by now almost a Windmill Speciality

Above - The eternal Can-Can is by now almost a Windmill Speciality

Can-CanThe pictures we show here are sufficient indication of the quality he obtains, and it is not difficult to understand why his methods are so successful. Obviously, any photographer who 'belongs' to a show knows the routines and has the full cooperation and assistance of the players in a way that, no outside photographer could hope to equal. All the stage shots are taken by electronic flash and all the conditions are known exactly and controlled. Ken works with a Primarflex and two Rolleis (one loaded with colour, usually Gevacolor or Agfacolor, and two with FP3 for black and white), mounted on the one tripod cradle and all actuated by one cable release.

Right - The eternal Can-Can is by now almost a Windmill Speciality

Can-CanHis electronic flash outfit was specially designed to meet his requirements by C & P Equipments. It comprises two power packs, each delivering 1,000 joules. From these he feeds either four flash heads, of 500 joules each, or 3/500 and 2/250. The whole illumination is triggered by a photo-electric cell slave unit, actuated by a 200-joule flash attached to his camera.

Left - The eternal Can-Can is by now almost a Windmill Speciality.

Lydia Barton dancing with Tony Dallman in 'Flutter in the House', a ballet devised by Keith Lester for a recent Windmill show.With the FP3, which allows him to make enlargements up to 20 x 30, Ken's average stage flash needs an aperture of f /16 or f /22. With Gevacolor, he uses f/6.3 and with Agfacolor f/5.6. Actually, he uses the negative-positive process for much of his work and, until recently, colour was used almost exclusively, front of the house. Fading in strong light is, however, one disadvantage of this process which no manufacturer has yet been able to overcome.

Right - Lydia Barton dancing with Tony Dallman in 'Flutter in the House', a ballet devised by Keith Lester for a recent Windmill show.

17-year-old Carole Mills as a Parisienne Poodle.Two of the Rolleis he uses are of 1935 vintage. Recently he bought the latest f /3.5 Tessar Rolleiflex and, for a time, had some doubts about the quality of present-day lenses. The importers of the Rollei, R. F. Hunter Ltd, soon put his mind at ease by changing the focusing eyepiece for a glass better suited to Ken's eyesight. 'I wonder how many Rollei users know about that service?' he said.

For the Primarflex, Ken has some useful lenses. One is an 18-cm Primotar, f/3.5; he has a 13.5-cm f/2.8 BioTessar, a 9-inch Dallmeyer Dallon, f /5.6 and an 8-cm w/a Ross Xpres, f /4. Ken also includes a Retina in his outfit, but except for occasional outside use he finds little use for this.

Left - 17-year-old Carole Mills as a Parisienne Poodle.

One of the advantages of taking photographs during actual dress rehearsals is to be found in the life and spontaneity which one detects in all the pictures. It does, however, impose a need for speedy working. Ken takes anything from 80 to 150 shots in a show of 11 hours and each picture is duplicated in black and white and colour. There can be no retakes. The picture has to be on the negative—they are too small, anyhow, for retouching or faking afterwards, quite apart from the fact that the thought of any such after-treatment is anathema to photographer Bandy.

Ken claims to have learnt his photography by experiment and he has always shown himself willing to try out new ideas. Back in the 'thirties' when it was almost impossible to find any reliable source of information about colour and flash he invented and patented his own synchronising gun. 'The prototype,' he said, 'worked perfectly, but I never carried it into production'. Another of his successful experiments was building a projector for using Kodachrome and Agfacolor slides on the Windmill screen during intervals. With an arc lamp housing he was able to penetrate 40 feet of smoke-laden atmosphere and throw a 10 x 8 feet image on the screen.

Dress rehearsal, with Rosemary Philips on stage. In the auditorium, various members of a camera club who go to the Windmill from time to time to practice their stage photography.

Above - Dress rehearsal, with Rosemary Philips on stage. In the auditorium, various members of a camera club who go to the Windmill from time to time to practice their stage photography.

Outdoor shots for publicity purposes sometimes figure in Bandy's programme. Here is siren Doreen Loro on the conventional rock.Ken's pictures go round the world, but their production is so much a part of his energetic routine that he is apt to take them for granted. 'I never take a picture, just for the sake of taking one,' he says. 'All my photography is for the Windmill and I can't afford the time for taking several shots just in the hope of getting the one I want.'

Right - Outdoor shots for publicity purposes sometimes figure in Bandy's programme. Here is siren Doreen Loro on the conventional rock.

Frankie James and Patsy Atkins in traditional costume in traditional pose.And what a sweet monopoly he has. Any of these pictures will bear that out. Here is a photographer who has reduced photography to a simple slide-rule computation; he has full control over equipment and conditions, some of the loveliest girls in Great Britain for his models, a continuous exhibition of his work and the thrill of seeing his pictures used in the press everywhere. How many of our readers would welcome a chance to take over his responsibilities?

Left - Frankie James and Patsy Atkins in traditional costume in traditional pose.

But again, how many of our readers have the natural ability of Ken Bandy? This, more than anything else, accounts for the excellent quality of the Windmill pictures.

The article on Kenneth Bandy, and its accompanying images, on this page was first published in Photography Magazine, August 1956 and is Courtesy Maurice Poole.

In 1940 Kenneth Bandy, who was the House Manager at the Windmill Theatre at the time, set about photographing some of the scenes from the Revudeville shows at the Windmill Theatre on to 35mm colour slides. These slides now belong to Maurice Poole who has had them restored and digitised by David Rose and has kindly sent them in for inclusion on the site. There are 256 of these slides and all you need to do to see them all is to click the image.

Above - In 1940 Kenneth Bandy set about photographing some of the scenes from the Revudeville shows at the Windmill Theatre on to 35mm colour slides. These slides now belong to Maurice Poole who has had them restored and digitised by David Rose and has kindly sent them in for inclusion on the site. There are 256 of these slides and all you need to do to see them all is to click the image above.

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