Herstory 1991

In my early 20’s I had left the sixth form and was working as a computer programmer for a company in Long Eaton. My hobby was photography, a pastime that I enjoyed with my father. For those of you who haven’t processed film and printed your own photographs, there is nothing quite like the magic of watching the images appear in the developer bath. Something I miss very much. Something that modern digital software simply cannot replace or even come close to the experience.

Some of my work was published in photo magazines including Practical Photography and exhibited in galleries. I decided to leave my programming profession and start my own photography business. I covered the usual things like weddings, commercial, fashion, dogs and horses.

Anyhow, I also wrote a story! Don’t know why, but I did!

I imagined a parallel world that had taken a different track, in which women had gained complete control. I took a series of photos of my friends and other girls that I had met in my photography business, in particular the girls from the equestrian establishments that I worked at.

I sent a few samples to some of the publications of the time. You may remember Shiny International and Madames, two of the most popular fetish content publications of the time. Anyhow, they were both eager to publish my photography and so my work appeared in their magazines for a while.

I was invited to the offices of Shiny International, so travelled down to London with a new set of images and some ideas. They were NOT interested in my idea of creating a magazine completely devoted to a world of female supremacy at all. In fact, they pretty much laughed at the idea, saying that it would never catch on.

They asked me to leave my new sets of photos with them and they would include them in sets with different storylines, more fitting to their style.

Anyhow, I decided not to and regretfully had to leave without making any sales. Not good when I was really struggling financially at the time. But, I grew up from a poor background, so it wasn’t as if I was missing anything. I had my images and my stories. I just needed to figure out what to do next.

The thing that really stuck in my mind was the parting words of the bosses …

“Come back when you need help from the big boys”

I think that is what gave me an incredible amount of determination!

However, it seemed that all was lost. It didn’t matter how good I was at photography, I was from let’s say a lower class and so the work I could find was ‘at my level’. No high class expensive weddings for me. Things were pretty tough in the days. But I had sheer determination and continued creating images and writing my stories.

My parents could see just how hard I was working, trying so hard to get somewhere with my work. One day they offered me their life savings to get started. This was a huge risk but we discussed it and formulated a plan!

Of course, they were not financially well off and it was around £1500 that we could work with in total. The masterplan was as follows. Firstly I needed to get an account at a printing company. Printing publications in those days was very expensive throughout. Obviously I could not afford to get a magazine printed.

So I used a selection of my photos to create a calendar for 1993. We could just afford this. So we spent the £1500 on getting the calendar printed. The purpose of this was to get an account. After all, if you are a new customer and with great confidence you hand over £1500 for a print job you are going to generate a degree of respect (£1500 was quite a sum in 1993).

So, account created I was then able to put a magazine together which was Cruella Volume 1 (see how confident I was, I even named it volume 1). This was possible because of my new print account which gave me 60 days to repay. The first magazine was actually laid out on an amstrad word processor. Laid out might be a stretch of a description but basically this just printed sheets of A4 paper with boxes of text in position. Then I would tape each transparency to spaces on the page where the image would be placed. The images were scanned by the printers and then assembled into position on the master print plates. In essence I had photographed, written and laid out my first magazine completely by myself.

Then came the next hurdle. Where do I sell the magazines I had printed? I now had thousands of Cruella magazines in a garage and a HUGE print bill!

I did a deal with The Sunday Sport newspaper. They were keen on some images I had done, so I swapped them for a two-page spread where I could advertise my magazines. This worked exceptionally well and I was able to start paying the printers back sooner. So I got great credit facilities to start my next print runs. Not so long after I found a distributor. And my magazine empire took off!