Self-Portrait, Sri Lanka © Lewis Morley

Lewis Morley describes his experiences meeting Joe on the set of Loot and photographing publicity shots of him for the US run of Entertaining Mr Sloane

See some of the portraits of Joe here

Photographer Lewis Morley wrote of Joe in his memoirs 'Black and White Lies'
(ETT Imprint, Sydney 1992)
'Black and White Lies' has the insider view of the swinging sixties, including key figures from London's theatre, film, fashion and music such as Christine Keeler, Joe Orton, Twiggy,
Jean Shrimpton, Michael Caine, Peter O'Toole,
Clint Eastwood, Truffaut and Dali!
For more information on this book visit



I expected him to arrive with the usual body-building gear that one sees stretched over the highly oiled and over-developed muscles in the body-building magazines. The spangled jockstrap, the tiger-striped, hip-hugging, vee-cut costume. At least a pair of tight-fitting swimming trunks. When I was finally confronted by a slim youth, wearing a pair of ever-so-slightly stained Aertex underpants, I was ever-so-slightly shocked.

These days, when it is the norm to deliberately dress to shock, one isn’t. Petticoats and bras worn as outer garments pass unnoticed. Underpants worn in the park raise not a furore or a giggle or even an eyebrow. But in the permissive sixties, which were still pretty stitched-up in more ways than one, to be photographed in underpants, other than for advertising, was tantamount to pornography. Like a Victorian pornographic photograph, where the male was often stark naked, except for a pair of socks, it provoked an unintentional air of hilarity.

I had misgivings about Joe’s attire. I felt that the underpants would somehow make a joke of his intentions, but he appeared to be perfectly relaxed and completely at ease, exuding the confidence that what he had chosen for the session was absolutely right. I said nothing, feeling that any disapproval from me would be to no avail. It might unsettle and perhaps even hurt him. He did have a streak of vulnerability, I felt, very close tot he surface.

It would have been easier to photograph him in the nude and pose him ‘artistically’…meaning, hiding his cock. But as these photos were for promotional purposes in the United States, a fully naked figure posed the problem of censorship. Naked ’birds’ showing their ‘boobs’ were OK, but naked guys showing their bums were definitely out. So, I did the best I could under the existing conditions.

It was our first meeting all over again. Joe wanted to be masculine and tough, fleshing out his biceps by pressing them against a closed fist. Lamb posing a ram. No way could he be compared to a marble Hercules, or a tanned Charles Atlas. He was more like the chap who had sand kicked in his face, or, to be fair, the comparison that sprang to mind was that of a Greek bronze of a youth, removing a thorn from his foot.

The session went without a hitch. In between cups of coffee and cigarettes he asked me about the paintings and sculpture hanging around the studio. I told him they were mine and that as I was more successful as a photographer than an artist, I only dabbled in my spare time. It was now a form of relaxation, which helped me to wind down from the business of running a studio.

When Joe came to look at the contacts, he brought with him a large, framed collage, asking my opinion of it and whether I would like it. At our last meeting he’d spoken about his brush with the law and the imprisonment resulting from his escapades with library books, where innocuous covers had been rendered scurrilous by some judiciously placed collaging. I didn’t know whether to assume he’d done this larger collage or not. Not wanting to offend, I declined the offer in my gentlest manner, influenced no doubt by an aversion to the maltreatment of books which had arisen from my years in the prison camp.

He said nothing, neither justifying nor defending it. The only reaction was a slight droop of the shoulders. I felt that he wanted approval or at least some constructive criticism and not the lack of a response that I had given. He was pleased with the photos but nothing more was said about the collage and after a final cup of coffee he tucked the picture under his arm and left. That was the last time I saw Joe although he did drop me a line ordering more prints and adding, ‘America hated Sloane. We ran thirteen perfs. Ugh rotten Yanks! Yours Joe. P.S. I’ll pay for them naturally’

When I read his diary and saw the film, Prick up Your Ears, I was stunned as well as a little saddened, as my only recollections of him were of a gently spoken youth who housed a hidden sensitivity and vulnerability under the veneer of his brittle, devil-may-care attitude. But that may have been his strength, making use of his facility with words and his acute observations, changing rapidly as the situation demanded-the easy chameleon.

These many years later, knowing what I do now, I can only surmise that the collage was probably done by Kenneth Halliwell, Joe’s lover, and that Joe was trying, in some way, to help him.

Image © Lewis Morley   Text © Lewis Morley with kind permission  

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