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March 13, 2024

30 Amazing Self-Portraits of Former Model Turned Photographer Bunny Yeager From the 1950s

Bunny Yeager (March 13, 1929 – May 25, 2014), the famed model-turned-photographer, is known for her light-drenched stills of pinup women oozing self-assured sexuality. Working in an age where men captured and controlled most distributed images of women, Yeager flipped the switch, creating sultry self-portraits and pinup shots from a woman’s point of view.

Born Eleanor Linnea Yeager in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania., the artist moved to Miami at 17 years old, determined to shed her shy persona and reinvent herself. She adopted the name Bunny from Lana Turner’s character in the 1945 film Week-End at the Waldorf and began modeling and competing in beauty pageants. At five foot nine with platinum blonde hair, Yeager was a stunner, a Marilyn Monroe type with a bold vision and bewitching smile.

In Miami, Yeager also studied photography at the Lindsey-Hopkins Technical College, and even sold one of her homework assignments to a men’s magazine. Her big break arrived when she was approached by none other than Bettie Page, the almighty Queen of Pinups, before the world knew her name or her tiny bangs. The two collaborated on a shoot for Playboy, back when “nobody had heard of Hugh Hefner,” that ushered the both of them into unexpected acclaim.

“I decided I didn’t know where to send the pictures I was shooting,” Bunny Yeager recalled. “I was walking by the magazine stand and saw a new men’s magazine [Playboy]. I called them on the phone and asked if I could submit my photographs. As soon as they got them, Hugh called me up and was all excited, and wanted to buy one of the photos for Playboy. The picture was of Bettie decorating a Christmas tree, in just a Santa hat I had made for her.”

Though she's often categorized with pinup artists like Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas, Yeager has more in common with later generations of female photographers like Cindy Sherman and her many disciples, who construct feminized personas for the camera, shedding identities like they're potential outfits.

If it wasn't already abundantly obvious, Yeager was a feminist before the term was part of the cultural conversation. "I always hated it when people said, 'You can do this as good as a man,' or 'Why don't you do it like the men do it?'" she explained. "They kept bothering me. I wasn't interested in competing with male photographers, or doing anything that had to do with them, because I wanted to be original and have my own feelings and abilities to put forth my ideas and execute them into photo stories. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, not what men had done."

All hail the bold and beautiful Bunny, who slyly snuck feminist agency into the most unlikely of spaces -- men's magazines. As an artist, her contributions are both ahead of their time and unabashedly delectable. In the words of Ms. Yeager: "What a boring place the world would be if every woman looked the same as the next … Make the most what you have and enjoy being female; enjoy being YOU."

(via HuffPost Entertainment)


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