There’s an excellent new photography book on the shelves: Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin Up Photography’s Golden Era. Written by cultural historian, Petra Mason and with a foreword by modern burlesque star, Dita von Teese. The book also contains excerpts from Bunny Yeager’s own how-to manuals, as well as 250+ photos; including many previously unpublished ones.
The cover of “Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin Up Photography’s Golden Era” (Rizzoli Books)
On Tuesday evening, Shawn and I jumped at the opportunity to attend the book signing and talk with Petra and Bunny at Books & Books in the Gables. And it was fantastic!I had known of Bunny Yeager and her photography; but didn’t know too much about her background; she seems to be a pretty private person. So, it was great to hear Bunny talk and answer some questions from the audience. Yeager is a long-time resident of Miami and is well-known for both her self-portraits and now iconic images of Bettie Page. She was also a sought after model in the 1950’s. After modeling for a while she decided she wanted to be behind the camera too, so she took a photography class; and practiced by doing many self-portraits. Back then she was the only female pin-up photographer – and an excellent one at that! In 1955 she submitted to Playboy Magazine, a photo of Bettie Page dressed in nothing but a Santa Claus hat, decorating a tree. From then on, her photography career (as well as Bettie’s modeling career) took off. Now, at age 83, Bunny is still going strong. She still shoots – and with film! She plans on making more books, and just signed a contract with Bruno Banani, a German lingerie and bikini line.
The author Petra Mason did an excellent job of compiling Yeager’s images into this fantastic book. When Shawn and I were flipping through it while listening to Bunny tell us a story about a photo shoot she did with Sammy Davis, Jr. and the model, Maria Stinger; we felt like we were holding a piece of history in our hands. There are photos in the book from that shoot. Sammy had Bunny help him learn how to pose a model and shoot with a Hasselblad camera.
During the Q&A with Mason and Yeager, we learned little tidbits about Bunny: She still shoots film. She does not own a digital camera. Bettie Page was the first model she photographed who had an even tan – i.e. no tan lines. She still has the tripod that Sammy Davis, Jr. gave her. She also still has her old 8×10 Speed Graphic camera. She liked shooting with a Yashicamat and Minolta TLR cameras. She can be rough on her equipment, especially back in those days when she would photograph models on the beach (all that sand and salt water!). She got to the point where she didn’t really need a light meter to know which exposure to use – she could just feel it by the amount of the sunlight.
Bettie Page, Bunny Yeager, and cheetahs. Boca Raton, 1954.
I only wish the conversations with Bunny could have lasted longer. I am sure she has all sorts of interesting stories. I haven’t read through the whole book yet, but I highly recommend it! Some quotes said by Bunny Yeager that stand out are:
“Make the most of what you have and enjoy being female; enjoy being YOU.”
“When you start photographing yourself, you are going to be amazed at all the things you find out about yourself, and you’ll be glad you did.”
Bunny Yeager and Bettie Page, behind the scenes.
Thank you, Bunny, for re-inventing the pin-up.