Groundbreaking Pin-Up Photographer Bunny Yeager Has Died


Pin-up photographer and former model Bunny Yeager – who was best known for her Playboy centerfold of Bettie Page – died this weekend. She was 85.

Yeager (real name: Linnea Eleanor Yeager) was responsible for the iconic centerfold of Page with a Christmas tree that made its way into Playboy in 1955. (She also took the still photos of Ursula Andress coming out of the water in the James Bond film Dr. No.) Her time in front of the lens as a pin-up herself prompted her to start learning about taking photos to save money by making her own prints. As her New York Times obituary notes:

…the most conspicuous hallmark of her work was her use of vibrant, natural-looking models, who exuded a confident female sexuality that — at the moment the shutter clicked, at least — did not appear destined for the male gaze.
“I’m not doing it to titillate anybody’s interests,” Ms. Yeager said of her work in an interview last year. “I want to show off how beautiful my subjects are, whether it’s a cheetah or a live girl or two of them together. That’s more important to me than anything.”

In Tori Rodriguez’s recent Atlantic piece about how Bettie Page’s female fans “made her an icon,” Yeager gets only a brief mention, probably because she and Page only worked together a few times before Page retired. But Yeager certainly had an impact on the industry she worked in. She was responsible for getting Page and many other female models on the map and Diane Arbus once called her “the world’s greatest pinup photographer.”

“They all wanted to model for me because they knew I wouldn’t take advantage of them and I wouldn’t push them to do nudes if they didn’t want to do nudes,” Yeager said of the women that modeled for her in an interview with the Associated Press last year.

Yeager published numerous books of her photographs including Bunny Yeager’s Beautiful Backsides, Bunny Yeager’s Bikini Girls of the 1950s and Bunny Yeager’s Pin Up Girls of the 1960s, as well as a couple on how to take strong photos. In recent years she was the subject of several retrospective shows, and in 2012, a book on her life was released entitled Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin-up Photograph’s Golden Era.

Image via Lynne Sladky/AP

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