When I founded DOMAI, nobody would ever call themself a "dirty old man" if it was not meant as a joke. Today you see hundreds or thousands of very poor web sites and operations who would not only do that, but say much worse things as well. A minority of humanity with very little respect for woman and for beauty has come to light, soiling the reputation of honest photographers and nude models.
That is why I now have to ruin the joke partly by informing you up front that the name of this club and site: "Dirty Old Men's Association International" is indeed a joke. Not only that, but it is the joke that started the whole thing, which is why I don't remove it. Please read further for enlightenment as to why it is called that, there are important reasons.
Dirty Old Men's Association International was founded in the turbulent times of 1936 when struggling young photographer Eolake [ee-o-laig] Stobblehouse was traveling around Europe in an eternal quest for the ultimate beauty (a quest he later gave up for the more attainable one of searching for the "quite good enough beauty"). Stobblehouse, in a bar brawl later to make the reputation of the famous Amsterdam boarding house "The Violent Penguin", was arrested on charges of photographing needlessly undressed young women as nude models.
The following court case turned out to be a classic, in which the defiant Stobblehouse in a six hour long speech convinced the entire court room, including the prosecutor and the concerned parents who had hired him, that true beauty is not only a thing of holy godliness, but also wholly hindered and degraded by excessive clothing. He had most of the attendees weeping when he finished, and found himself with eight eager new customers for his art after the trial, and many nude models.
Eolake then had the almost spiritual realization that whatever one found oneself to be, one might as well be proud of it, and defend it to the last drop of blood. He looked deep inside himself to find his nature, and consequently founded DOMAI.
The early offices of DOMAI were a poor show. The prewar Paris was no longer the place for the free-minded that it had been in the swinging twenties. Bourgeois small-mindedness keep nibbling at the corners of the pioneer's self confidence, and a profound lack of funds did nothing to lighten the situation. Sitting in a draughty loft room under a leaky roof, Stobblehouse drew up the first versions of a philosophy that was to guide dirty old beauty-loving minds everywhere in the decades to follow.
His first loyal follower, and later a stout friend, turned up in the shape of heavyset dentist Jonathan Mollatoh. This big, friendly, grey-haired man was the proud uncle of several pretty young nieces of whom he was extremely fond, and of whom he was very protective and loving. He arranged several meetings between Stobblehouse and the nieces, meetings which would give birth to timeless pieces of art, such as the two black-and-white photographic masterpieces "Girl on a donkey 1", and "Girl eating a carrot", as well as the early colour extravaganza (colour film was then in its infancy, and very expensive) "Two girls on a donkey and a lot of vegetables".
Mollatoh was accomplished in accounting, more than could be said for Stobblehouse, and his timely interference was probably all that saves DOMAI from an early demise by bad economics. He was the one that gave Eolake the often-quoted advice: "Don't give a girl ten times her honorarium just because you like her. For chrisssakes, you like all of the nude models!" Stobblehouse heeded this advice, and more, and business picked up at once.
An anecdote flawlessly illustrating the spirit of those heady times is about one day when Eolake was visiting Mollatoh in his summer residence, and as the two men were enjoying their fruit juice drinks on the veranda, two of the dentist's nieces were playing on the lawn in an extensive state of undress. Both men were silent for a while, being in contemplative moods, and then Stobblehouse said: "Ahh, yes..." Mollatoh was silent for a moment, and then replied: "Yes... Yes, indeed."
Stobblehouse was (and is) a hard worker. The floor under his writing desk was warped from the moisture of his sweat produced in the long nights of furious inspiration working on his philosophy, in the beginning stretching into heavy and numerous tomes, but later boiled down to much shorter forms, and finally condensed to shapes which totally belied their early verbatiousness. As Stobblehouse himself jokingly puts it: "Well, the whole thing can be put simply into the single sentence: 'Enjoy life as if it were your own'!"
Much of the wonderful photographic work that Stob (as he is sometimes known to his friends) produced during and after the war was tragically lost in the great fire of Stockholm 1953. Stobblehouse lost not only most of his negatives and prints, but also his favourite Leica and Hasselblad cameras and part of his library, including irreplaceable Indian erotica from the seventeenth century. When asked about this disaster, Stobblehouse is apparently unconcerned, saying merely that the silver lining is that it forced him to look at the world and his work "in a new unit of time", and that which one cannot bear to lose, one cannot fully own.
Following is a little story from recent times, told by Stobblehouse himself, which illustrates that an artist's struggles never are over.
It's like this: Doing my duty as a good DOM, I had been defying the cold Danish pre-spring, and was photographing the local girl gymnast team training at the sports grounds of the high school. That day not looking for nude models, you see. I got what I considered some pretty dramatic pics of the young and strong leaping against the sky, landing in clouds of sand, and running with their chests shot forth. The girls then had left, and I took a few moody shots of the empty sports ground. When I had finished and attempted to leave, the gate had been locked for the weekend, and I took the nearest door in order to go through the school.
Inside I suddenly found myself in the midst of winter-pale young bodies merrily and noisily doing their showering. The girls, knowing me well, didn't in the least shy off, despite their general undress, and started shouting and teasing me.
As I tried to cut through the room, two of the bigger girls blocked my way, standing stark nude with their hands on their hips and laughing, shifting left and right as I did.
I took the other way around the large bench in the middle of the room. This way passed the showers, and the girls in those started spraying water at me. I still had my camera around my neck, so I turned my back and curled over, trying to protect it. A voice said: "Let me take that." It was the girls coach, a redhead in her twenties. Desperate, I handed her the camera. Professionally, she popped open the camera and ripped out the film, exposing it to the light. She said accusingly: "Imagine coming in here with a camera! You dirty old man!"
Well I didn't feel the time was right to show her my membership card, so I just quietly moaned for the loss of this year's only good pictures so far, and got wetter and wetter on the back.
Then three girls were suddenly pushing me, and I skidded across the wet tiles directly into the showers. There I got wet for real.
Ten or twenty hands then started undressing me, roughly! "If he's a dirty old man, lets clean him!" one of the girls shouted. In half a minute I was reduced to my briefs, and then they went too.
After five minutes, seven bars of soap, and about two litres of shampoo, I dare say I have never been cleaner. Or more exhausted. They all left me sitting under the shower and went to dress themselves, still laughing all the way out.
The final one to leave was the coach, who popped her head into the shower room and said: "Don't forget your camera!"
I shouted: "No! no!" But she threw the camera to me. Or rather at me. Despite being nude and wet, I somehow managed to catch it, but didn't stop it from becoming wet too. I frantically scrambled out of the shower, holding the camera in one hand, and staggered out to find a lot of tissue to dry of my beloved camera.
Having dried myself and dressed, I went to the school's canteen for a well-deserved ham-and-cheese sandwich. I ignored the girls with their cokes, giggling.
And they actually do like me. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Talking to Stobblehouse today, and gazing into his bright steel-blue eyes above his straight nose and silver-speckled beard, one realized that one has no idea beyond the most general of his actual age, and if one attempts to ask him about such worldly details, he seems to slowly lose interest in the conversation, and that puts one on the track to pertinent topics again.
On the wall behind his desk in his study hangs pictures, not what one should suspect, of pretty nymphs, but of, amongst others, Queen Victoria. Eolake states that Victoria, despite her, well, Victorian stance on many things, were a lady of a fierce power and beauty of spirit, who were an inspiration. He speaks as though he had known her personally.
We leave convinced that DOMAI will continue to be a force and an inspiration for at least as many decades as it has already existed.
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