March 13th, 1929 to May 25th, 2014
March 13th, 1929 to May 25th, 2014
"Bunny Yeager, photographer of Bettie Page pinups, dies at 85"
May 26th, 2014
The Los Angeles Times
Bunny Yeager had success as a model in Miami in the 1950s, but she wanted to be a photographer. She saw her chance when she met the little-known Bettie Page, who had modeled for under-the-counter photo sets that specialized in sadomasochism.
Yeager took a somewhat more wholesome, holiday-themed photo of Page — nude except for a Santa hat — and in 1955 sent it off to fledgling magazine Playboy. "I figured because they were new they might pay attention to an amateur, and that's what happened," she told the London Telegraph in 2012.
The photo launched her career as one of the most successful pinup photographers, often with Page — who became an international sex symbol — as her model.
Yeager, 85, died Sunday in a nursing facility in North Miami. The cause was heart failure, said her agent, Ed Christin.
In recent years, along with a revival of interest in Page, who died in 2008, there was much renewed appreciation for Yeager's photography. Her work was the subject of several gallery and museum shows, such as the "Bunny Yeager: The Legendary Queen of the Pinup" exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in 2010.
Yeager worked with numerous models over the years, but said that Page was uncommonly cooperative.
"It was like us doing a dance together," Yeager said in an interview last year in the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Florida. "I would snap my fingers and she would do exactly what I told her to do: 'Stand on your toes. Kick your leg in the air. Jump in the air.'"
There were pictures of Page frolicking on the beach in Key Biscayne, dressed in a bikini that Yeager designed and made. Another locale was a wild animal park in Boca Raton, Fla., where many of the animals were not caged. Page, dressed in a leopard-print swimsuit, was shown sitting among real cheetahs.
Yeager came to be admired for her use of natural light, sometimes enhanced by flash even in daylight, to make a model's skin look luminous. But unlike nude photographers whose depictions of women were hyper-sexual and pumped up, Yeager found sensuality in a more natural look.
"Bunny has that good understanding of how to photograph the female body. At the same time, she knew how to captivate men's sexual fantasies," Miami gallery owner Harold Golen told the New York Times in 2011 when the gallery hosted an exhibition of Yeager's work. "Her women are real. None of them are spray-tanned. Their breasts aren't ballooned. They have curves and a bit of cellulite."
The 1950s and 1960s were Yeager's boom years, with her working for several magazines. She appeared on the quiz show "What's My Line" and had a few roles in movies, including as a Swedish masseuse in the 1968 Frank Sinatra detective film, "Lady in Cement."
The statuesque, blond Yeager was also known for taking pictures of herself, using a timer. But with no full nudity in those.
In the 1970s her career as a photographer ground nearly to a halt. Magazines were getting more graphically anatomical. That was over the line for Yeager, who prided herself on making models comfortable and earning their trust. "You had magazines like Penthouse ... kind of smutty," she said in the Sun Sentinel interview. "They had girls showing more than they should."
"I'm not doing it to titillate anybody's interest," she continued. "I want to show off how beautiful my subjects are, whether it's a cheetah or a live girl or two of them together."
She was born Linnea Eleanor Yeager on March 13, 1929, in Wilkinsburg, Pa. She gave herself her nickname after seeing the 1945 movie "Week-End at the Waldorf" in which Lana Turner played a character named Bunny Smith.
The inspiration for her photography also came from a movie star — she spotted a magazine pictorial of Rita Hayworth. "She was posing on a bed in what looked like a slip," she told the Miami Herald in 2013. "It was probably a nightgown, I know that now, but it wasn't like any nightgown I'd ever worn."
For fun, Yeager started taking pictures of friends in slightly risque poses. But nudity was out of the question. "Where would we even get something like that developed?" she asked.
When she was 17 her family moved to Florida, where she won local beauty contests and got ample work as a model. In 1953 she enrolled in a photography night class at a vocational school. For one of her assignments, she took model pals — dressed in leopard-print swimsuits — to the same animal park where she later shot Page. One of her photos ended up on the cover of Eye magazine and her career began.
Yeager was married twice, and even became a Girl Scout leader. "Nude photographer and Girl Scout leader, that was Bunny," Christin said.
When her work was rediscovered after so many years of little work as a photographer, Yeager was thrilled. "It's exciting to find out that I'm appreciated by so many people," she told the Miami Herald in 2011. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing. People want to see me.
"It's like my life is starting all over again."
Yeager is survived by daughters Lisa Packard of North Miami and Cherilu Duval of Hamilton, Ohio. Yeager's first husband, Arthur Irwin, died in 1977. Her second husband, Harry Schaefer, died in 2000.
"Bunny Yeager, Pinup Portraitist, Dies at 85"
May 25th, 2014
The New York Times
Bunny Yeager, a model-turned-photographer whose images of a scarcely clad Bettie Page, embodying feral sexuality and winsome naïveté all at once, helped propel Ms. Page to international stardom as a midcentury pinup queen, died on Sunday in North Miami, Fla. She was 85.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said her agent, Ed Christin.
Ms. Yeager, who took up her art by accident, was one of the world’s most celebrated photographers of female nudes and near-nudes of the 1950s and ’60s. She is widely credited with helping turn the erotic pinup — long a murky enterprise in every sense of the word — into high photographic art.
Her work appeared in Playboy, for which she shot a string of centerfolds, and in a spate of postwar men’s magazines whose names — Cavalier, Escapade, Nugget, Fling, Sunbathing, National Police Gazette, Figure Quarterly — recall a bygone era of salacious innocence.
Ms. Yeager’s work, which fell dormant in the 1970s and remained so for decades as many of those magazines folded, has lately enjoyed a renaissance.
In 2010, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh mounted a show — the first museum exhibition of her career — of Ms. Yeager’s self-portraits. As artfully sensual as anything she shot from behind the camera, they prefigure the work of self-photographing artists like Cindy Sherman.
Other exhibitions followed, including “Bunny Yeager: Both Sides of the Camera,” on view last year at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale.
Ms. Yeager was played by Sarah Paulson in the 2005 film “The Notorious Bettie Page,” which starred Gretchen Mol in the title role.
For all the luminous women Ms. Yeager photographed over the years, she remained best known for her work with Ms. Page, whom she shot a thousand times during their brief collaboration in 1954.
“Oh, she was beautiful!” Ms. Yeager told The Miami Herald last year. “When I told her I thought I might want to photograph her nude, she said, ‘Funny, I sunbathe nude and I have a tan like this all over.’ And she did, everywhere, even behind her knees and all the places you wouldn’t think.”
More than 250 previously unpublished photos by Ms. Yeager are collected in the coffee-table book “Bettie Page: Queen of Curves,” with text by Petra Mason, to appear in October.
Ms. Yeager’s images, shot most often with a Rolleiflex or a Speed Graphic camera, are characterized by their imaginative compositions and exotic locales. A famous photo of Ms. Page depicts her, clad in a leopard-print swimsuit, beside a live cheetah.
Other stylistic hallmarks include a luminosity that seemed to pulsate from every image. A longtime Miami resident, Ms. Yeager shot frequently in the brilliant South Florida light and used a flash even in the daytime.
But 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.”
Ms. Yeager’s compositions are also memorable for the singular outfits she made for her models out of frugal necessity. For the image that propelled her and Ms. Page to celebrity, published in the January 1955 issue of Playboy, Ms. Yeager sewed the Santa hat worn by her winking, tree-trimming subject. She was not obliged to sew anything else.
Linnea Eleanor Yeager was born on March 13, 1929, in Wilkinsburg, Pa., near Pittsburgh. At 17, she moved with her family to Miami and there, Linnea, a self-described shy young woman, reinvented herself. She adopted the name Bunny from Lana Turner’s character in the 1945 film “Week-End at the Waldorf” and enrolled in modeling school.
Tall, slender and photogenic, Ms. Yeager was soon one of the most sought-after models in the city. She won a string of local beauty pageants, including, The Tampa Bay Times reported in 2011, Queen of Miami, Miss Personality of Miami Beach and Miss Trailer Coach of Dade County.
Ms. Yeager took up photography as a way to economize: Duplicating her portfolio was expensive, and she vowed to learn to make her own prints. Enrolling in a night-school photography class in her early 20s, she sold her idiosyncratic first homework assignment — the model Maria Stinger posed with cheetahs — to the men’s magazine Eye.
In 1954, Ms. Yeager met the raven-haired Ms. Page, who had come to Miami from New York, where she was known for the bondage imagery shot by the brother-and-sister photographers Irving and Paula Klaw.
After shooting Ms. Page as a suitless Santa — a demure image compared with Ms. Page’s previous work — Ms. Yeager set her sights on Playboy because, she said, “I heard they paid more than anybody else.” Playboy bought the picture for $100.
Ms. Yeager’s first husband, Arthur Irwin, known as Bud, died in the 1970s; her second husband, Harry Schaefer, died about 15 years ago. Survivors include two daughters, Lisa Irwin Packard and Cherilu Irwin Duval, and four grandchildren.
Her books include “How I Photograph Myself” (1964), about self-portraiture; “Bunny Yeager’s Flirts of the Fifties” (2007); “Bunny Yeager’s Bouffant Beauties” (2009); and, in 2012, “Bunny Yeager’s Beautiful Backsides.”
Bunny Yeager [Wikipedia]
Bunny Yeager's home page
Bunny Yeager...pinup photographer