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1972 Playboy Magazine - The "Lenna" Edition | Kevin Rye.net - Main

Kevin Rye

Geek Extraordinaire. Yeh, I said it.

1972 Playboy Magazine - The "Lenna" Edition

Say hello to my very first Playboy. It’s the November, 1972 edition.


Well, let me clarify that....it’s the first Playboy I’ve paid for. As kids, we often got out hands on nudie magazines; either by stealing them from our old man, or getting an older brother to buy one. I remember many a time as a kid being at a friend’s house and sneaking off into the woods to look at the Playboy and Penthouse magazines we’d gotten a hold off. Remember, this was a good decade or so before the internet. How else was a 13-year old supposed to get his jollies?

In any case, with the arrival of the internet, who needed to buy nudie magazines when you could get it on the ‘net for free? And not for nothing, but the stuff in those magazines back in the ‘80s was pretty tame by comparison.

Yeh, so it’s been a good 20 years since I’ve had my hands on a nudie magazine. But why now? Why the sudden interest in “Entertainment for Men”? Why November, 1972?

I’ll tell you....

It was just the other day that I got my Performa 575 connected to the internet. That’s a pretty amazing thing for a 20-year old Macintosh. Whenever I connect an old machine to the internet, it’s basically so that I can FTP files back and forth between the old and the new machines. Even though some of my old Macs are connected to the internet with Ethernet, that doesn’t mean I’m surfing the ‘net with them. There are some thin clients out there like iCab and Netscape, but the lack of RAM in those old 68K Macs is usually a deal-breaker when it comes to even running them. As far as networking a 20-year old machine via Ethernet, the best you can hope for is simple file transfers via FTP.

So, in order to test the functionality, I always pull down an image of Lena Söderberg as my “Hello World” image.

From wikipedia:

Lenna is the name given to a standard test image which has been in use since 1973. It comprises 512×512 pixels, and was originally cropped from the centerfold of the November 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It is a picture of Lena Söderberg, a Swedish model, shot by photographer Dwight Hooker. The test image is often used for image processing algorithms (such as compression and denoising) and related scientific publications.

Although her name is spelled “Lena”, Playboy spelled her name as “Lenna” in the magazine. It’s not a typo. It was common practice to anglicize foreign names into something “more English” sounding.

This is the original 512x512 image that’s commonly used:


I’ve used it several times to test the FTP functionality on my vintage Macs. I don’t always take a picture, but here’s a few:


What a cutie. I was dying to see if the rest of the image was out there somewhere, so I searched for it. Bingo. Here’s the full centerfold from Playboy:

Lenna Söderberg 1972_620

I thought since being such an iconic, well know picture in the world of computer imaging, that it would be fitting to use the “First Lady of the Internet” as the basis for a 3D render.

All of the images I found online were much too small, or low res to see what was going on with all the details in the background. I had hopped on eBay and found that there was no shortage of Lenna Playboys to be had. I bought one in pretty decent shape for only $6 bucks, shipped. As it turns out, this was Playboy’s most popular issue ever. They sold over 7 million copies.


I subsequently found the above image after the fact. I shrunk it down to 620x1129 for the post, but the original is 1054x1920; definitely large enough to see what’s going on.

I had already started work on my 3D render when the magazine arrived. I had been using the digital version as reference, but after seeing the actual centerfold from the magazine, it’s obvious that my reference image isn’t just a scan of the magazine. Compare the cropping in the magazine to that of the digital version, they’re not even close. In the magazine, half of the mirror on the right is missing as well as the mannequin on the left. The digital version must be a scan from the original negative. Playboy probably has all this stuff archived on their site and someone got a hold of it.

In any case, now with the magazine in hand, I hoped that there would be a few more shots from the same photo shoot. Maybe they would show a few alternate angles of what’s in the background. Some of the props on the floor are a little hard to make out. Also, it’s hard to count how many beams are on the ceiling, and how far apart they are.

Unfortunately, the rest of Lena’s photos were not in the attic.


Pretty tame stuff, but I guess back in the day, this was as good as it got.


The above pages are pretty much it as far as nudity. The magazine is 280 pages long and there’s only 20 pages with actual nudity. Seven I wouldn’t even count since it’s basically just a bunch of movie stills as part of an article titled “Sex in Cinema”.

Another discovery that I made is that not only is Lena’s name spelled “Lenna” in the magazine, but her last name is different too. She went by “Sjööblom”.

Googling for “Lenna Sjööblom” provided an additional image that, most likely, came from the Playboy archives. This image is definitely from the same photo shoot, but it’s not in the magazine. It doesn’t appear as if I’m missing any pages.

The baby doll in the bassinet, the purple stockings, and the pink feathers all indicate that this is the same scene, but things have been moved around between shots. The picture frames to the left are not in the centerfold at all.

By looking at this image, I did manage to figure out that there’s a gramophone in the background. It wasn’t obvious from looking at the centerfold. I knew I was looking at a turntable, but it wasn’t immediately apparent that the horn was there too behind her leg. Now that I know what I’m looking at, it’s as clear as day.


It’s ironic that I spent $6 bucks on a 42-year old nudie magazine hoping to find more images of the scene to then find an image on the internet of that scene that never made it into the magazine. At this point, I guess the magazine is just a “nice-to-have”. After all, isn’t it a part of computer history?

As far as the 3D render, it came out awesome.

Lena Tribute 620

You can check out the “Lenna Tribute” workflow on my 3D render page.