These days we are rarely without a camera, yet how often do we hold an actual photograph? We flip through streams of jpegs, on Tumblr, Instagram and the rest, we “like,” reblog and create virtual slideshows. We get daily dispatches from friends on alpine treks, course-by-course accounts of elaborate meals, and inspect carefully curated interiors. It’s so easy to create an evocative filter that we’ve become suspicious of what we’re looking at. It was not always thus.
Bunny Yeager’s photographs are direct and bracing. They remind us of the basic power of controlling the image and the elemental act of provocation. It should be mentioned that she was a pinup girl and named “world’s prettiest photographer” of 1953. You can enjoy her handiwork in the new book Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin-Up Photography’s Golden Era, (Rizzoli).
In the 1950’s photography could rightly be a provocative act. Being photographed was an event not a default setting. You dressed (or undressed) and vamped for it. Bunny’s shots of Bettie Page will certainly be familiar to aficionados of the genre, but the shots of herself are just as engaging. She explored the power of the medium from both sides of the lens.
When Bunny appeared on the urbane television program What’s My Line in 1957, she was asked if both men and women could enjoy her services. She correctly answered yes, and the panel was stumped. She defied conventions then, and her work still focuses our attention. It’s about women in costumes with contours, and the attraction remains decades after the fact. —DAVID COGGINS