I remember years ago browsing through the book section at Tower Records (hey, remember actual record stores?) and coming across this small 2-volumes slipcased set of books with little images of women in bondage on the spine. It caught my attention, of course, and I opened up one of the books and started browsing through. Little did I know that what I had found was a little treasure: a complete reprint of what may have been the first "fetish" magazine in the United States. John Willie's Bizarre.
Sometimes you see an image and it just resonates. You feel a connection to the image, it speaks to you. For me, it makes me say: I wish I made that. That is cool. Somebody actually created or took a picture of something that I was thinking or fantasizing about. That's what John Willie's images did to me. I felt at home right away.
The cool thing about the magazine he created was how much is covered in there. Fetishism, bondage, high-heels, really beautiful custom-made boots and shoes, rainwear, corsets, long kid leather gloves, girl fights, waist-cinching, ballet boots, rubber fetishism, smoking, lace fetish, steel restraints, and more... and this is all being created and published in the 1940s and 50s.
I got a kick out of how universal and timeless certain fetish themes are. They really had it all going on, even back in the day!
Because of the strict censorship of pornographic material at the time, he had to portray some bondage scenarios as self-improvement advertisements. Under a picture of a woman tied up, there would be a line of text saying "Don't let this happen to you, learn Jiu Jitsu the art of self-defense".
John Willie created all of the illustrations and paintings himself, as well as taking the photos, writing and publishing. It's an amazing amount of work. The volumes I have were published in 1995 by Taschen, and I'm not sure if they are still available. I just checked the Taschen website and didn't see them there, but on Amazon there are 2 used copies. Hopefully there will be a reprint some time in the future, as there is always a new generation who I think would get something out of John Willie's work.