Iconic ‘Tennis Girl’–35 Years Later


Martin Elliott’s ‘Tennis Girl’ – as it is officially know - is a popular photo that has adorned the bedroom walls of countless teenage boys for the past three decades. The picture shows a young woman from behind walking towards the net of a tennis court, her hand reaching out behind to lift her short tennis dress and revealing that she is not wearing any underwear.


The photograph was taken by Martin Elliott in September 1976 at the now defunct Birmingham University courts at Edgbaston and features 18-year-old Fiona Butler, his girlfriend at the time. Miss Butler could not play tennis, had little interest in the sport and was just wearing her father's plimsolls for the shot.

Elliott went on to sell the image rights to Athena but retained the copyright, earning him an estimated £250,000 in royalty payments. Martin Elliot died last year at the age of 63.

Fiona Walker, now a 52-year-old freelance illustrator with three children, said her then boyfriend Martin Elliott was a photography student when he persuaded her to pose for the shot. She was not keen on tennis, borrowed the footwear from her father and wore a tennis dress of a "friend of a friend". The balls on the court were ones she used to throw for her pet dog.

Walker revealed that despite the huge popularity of the poster, she has remained almost anonymous -- and received no royalties.

Recently, Walker posed with the original image to promote an exhibition of tennis as an art form. The picture goes on show at the Barber Institute in Birmingham on May 27, less than a mile from the garden of a villa in suburban Edgbaston, where the sport was first played.



This front shot of the tennis girl was taken at the time of the shoot in 1976, on the same roll of film.


Photographer Martin Elliot


Over the years the iconic Tennis Girl has been parodied by various people as diverse as Alan Carr and Kylie Minogue, and even appeared in advertisements.



The Tennis Girl has even been recreated in Lego. (via Flickr)


Sources: MSN, Wikipedia

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  1. There's something wrong about the information on the second photo. How they could be from the same roll if one is in colours and the other black and white?

    I read somewhere that the second one was shooted in 1980.

  2. I modeled for years. Here's your answer: a roll shot in color ends up - as all rolls do - as a proof sheet, where all the roll's photos can be viewed at once. Enlargements or useable photos are then circled on it, and developed in color or B&W (black and white) depending on what looks better for that photo. A B&W roll on the other hand can only produce B&W photos.


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