In a time of rampant racism and sexism, before the word feminism had entered the American lexicon, there was a culture of taboo surrounding scantily clad pin-up girls that was dominated by men with cameras. In a scenario where women were always on one side the lens, an industrious young lady made a name for herself on both. The stunning Bunny Yeager started as a swimsuit model but soon transformed herself into a powerhouse of photographic talent and sexual iconography, dissolving traditional gender roles and empowering herself through film. “Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom” from Rizzoli documents the photographer’s dynamic career guided by the artist herself.
During the golden era of pin-up photography Bunny Yeager was the queen. Her undeniable talent, combined with her beauty and unbridled sexuality, put her in a unique position to influence both the genre of pin-up photography and the role of women as photography professionals. Yeager had an innate ability to capture her subjects confidence and beauty, distilling the essence of femininity in their freedom and singular personalities. While many of her portraits fit comfortably in the mainstream, this collection features several never before seen prints that expose a behind the scenes look at her unique photographical insight.
One particularly memorable chapter documents Yeager’s extensive series of self portraits. Her desire never quelled by her success, Yeager liked being on both sides of the lens, taking pictures of herself on set as well as anywhere she could set up a tripod and remote trigger. Her self portraits served as as an introspective tool to observe herself from a photographic perspective—as she says in the book, “Just think about it: Wouldn’t it be great to see ourselves the way other people see us?” While most of us will never express the pure glamour and style of Yeager, it’s an interesting take on self analysis, especially in the days of slow to process film.
In all Yeager’s photos, you get a pure sense the fun and excitement. The scenes she created are always glamorous but also quite endearing— sexy, fun and intriguing but with a sense of ease that makes them universally irrestible.
Well before the era of pencil thin runway models, Yeager’s photographs harken back to a period of eroticism based on the classic, curvaceous feminine form. Yeager’s ability to combine sexuality and humor culminated in her iconic image of Bettie Page in nothing but at Santa cap coyly winking at the camera. It ran in Playboy magazine in 1955 and this collaboration would launch two legendary careers as well as a series of stunning portraits, some which feature the famous pinup icon in a truly unique light—showcasing her raw natural beauty.
Yeager’s photographs catalog a golden era in early American eroticism and yet seem surprisingly contemporary. Her soft touch and energetic compositions seem equally at home framing Miss March in the 50s or adorning a full page in any of today’s fashion editorials. The difference comes in her exceptional documentation of the buxom beauties of the past, paying homage to the shapes that formed the iconic idea of the American Woman. Yeager’s insight into the photographic process is invaluable and this collection serves as an excellent entry point into an exceptional woman’s lifelong mission to get the money shot.
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