Bunny Yeager – Pinup Photographer
Article by Mike at Glamour Photographers
For most people, Bunny Yeager is best known for her photography work involving Bettie Page. Bunny has many tasteful collections of many other models she’s photographed, but most don’t know she started herself as a model for US Camera and it wasn’t long before she decided to go on the other side of the lens.
In 1956, Hollywood glamour photographer Danny Rouzer had written this regarding Miss Yeager: “One of the finest pin-up photographers is Bunny Yeager, who is highly successful because she knows exactly what the procedure is for profitable pin-up work. A former model herself, she makes her own bikinis and pin-up costumes, but she gives her models the opportunity to select a costume that doesn’t conflict with their personalities. Bunny is a pin-up photographer who goes so far as to create something new in the way of costumes for every girl she photographs.”
I assume this kind of high compliment coming from a fellow glamour photographer would not be that impressive, apart from the reality that merely 4 years previous, Bunny Yeager had been a glamour model with very little practical experience behind the camera. She had only just recently begun taking a photography class right after watching a friend develop and print the pictures he’d taken of her. She was fascinated with the entire process, and wanted to learn, partially since it was relevant to her own work as a model. When Roy Pinney, a photographer she’d worked with the year before, learned that she was taking the class, he recognized it would make for a great photo write-up which he could submit to a magazine. The resulting article, featuring Bunny shooting a model on the beach, came out in a magazine supplement to a large number of nationwide and local newspapers, and she became famous over night. A similar write-up came out in U.S. Camera in Aug. 1953, in which she was announced “The World’s Prettiest Photographer”. Soon, she was receiving offers from several agencies, and after selecting one, sold her very first photo to Eye magazine, for their March 1954 issue. Her first photograph sale as well as her first magazine cover being a real pin-up photographer!
In an incredibly short time, Bunny had perfected the technical elements of photography, lighting, and had quickly obtained the professional photographic equipment she’d need. 1954 also was the year in which Bunny met Bettie Page, and the photographs they produced collectively were destined to become legendary glamour images. That same year, she took pictures of a Christmas themed pin-up of her new model, intending to submit it to a calendar company. Not knowing where to find one, she chose to send it to Playboy instead. Hugh Hefner immediately grabbed it up and released it in the January 1955 Holiday issue. In under 2 years after being thrust into the position of a glamour photographer, Bunny had photographed her first Playmate of the Month, where there were more to come:
Bunny’s fast achievements might have been partly as a result of her previously being a model first. She undoubtedly knew posing and the ways to get the best from her models, but regardless of being hesitantly pushed into the job of photographer, she also had a great artistic eye and sense of style. She was obviously a born photographer if ever there was one. Actually, in Rogue magazine she was quoted as stating “I took up photography because I’m a frustrated painter who was never good enough to be the best, and photography is the closest thing to being an artist”. You can only hope if she had not been prodded by Roy Pinney, she’d have realized this goal on her own. When Bunny was initially starting out, two of her big influences were Andre de Dienes and Peter Gowland. Bunny, nevertheless, had launched a style like no other. With the sunny beaches of Miami among her backdrops, she uncovered and captured images of among the most gorgeous models in south Florida. She famously approached one young woman who’d turn out to be her second Playmate, Lisa Winters, on a Miami bus, and after a little coaxing, persuaded her to pose. Miss Winters turned out to be among the list of favorites with the readers with the then three year old Playboy magazine, as well as one of Hef’s as well.
One of the numerous photographic skills that Bunny had at her fingertips was the cabability to get the proper backdrops for her glamour photos. She’d often get approval to photograph in glamorous bachelor residences, and even utilized the model’s own apartments, whenever she believed they had the appropriate style. Constantly in search of new and interesting backdrops, she got permission occasionally to use the home of well-known Miami sculptor Sepy Debronyi and created some extremely eye catching photographs there.
Right after being prompted by her agent, Bunny authored the first of her numerous photography books in 1957 (Photographing the Female Figure). This became not just a showcase for her glamour photos, but also an informative tome for all those thinking about pursuing a similar career. Additional books followed, including:
How to Take Figure Photos (1962)
How I photograph Nudes (1963)
How to Photograph the Figure (1963)
How I Photograph Myself (1964)
100 Girls (1965)
Bunny’s Honey’s (1996)
Bikini Girls of the 1960s (2007)
Femmes Fatales of the 1950s (2008)
Bunny had been the topic of two semi-documentary films by Barry Mahon entitled Bunny Yeager’s Nude Camera (1963) and Bunny Yeager’s Nude Las Vegas (1964). Even though films are in no way a true portrayal of her photography because of the setups and lighting being controlled by producer/director/cameraman Barry Mahon (who seemingly had very little understanding of motion picture or still photography lighting), it’s still a pleasure to be able to watch Bunny work together with a few of her models, which includes an uncredited Lisa Winters in Nude Camera.
As the title of one of her books in the above list indicates (How I Photograph Myself), Bunny frequently merged her talents and took glamour photographs of herself, as well as her lovely models. It was this particular book that got the interest of the producers of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and she was asked to appear on the program as a guest in the mid 1960s.
Camera gear used by Bunny in those years included her Rolleiflex (with the Zeiss Tessar 75mm f/3.5 lens), a 4×5 Speed Graphic, and her Burke and James 8×10 camera which she used to shoot her Playboy centerfolds. For b&w medium format (her Rolleiflex), she used quite a lot of Tri-X and for medium and large format color, It looks like she used Ektachrome transparency film.
Apart from her work with Playboy, Bunny’s photos were presented in numerous other men’s magazines for the day. One of the higher quality magazines that frequently used her work had been Rogue.