Bunny Yeager: The Legendary Queen of the Pin-Up
Pittsburgh native Bunny Yeager moved to Miami at the age of 17 in the late 1940s and quickly became one of the most photographed models of that city’s booming beach culture. After winning a beauty pageant that she entered to overcome her shyness, she went on to appear in countless pinup pictures and soon became the face of Miami and its sun-infused lifestyle. In the 50s, Yeager enrolled in photography school so that she could turn her own modeling career into a profession on the other side of the camera. She was never shy about approaching potential models on the beach or even at the bus stop, and her warm nature and constant smile aided her well in convincing her models to pose in the nude. As a woman photographer shooting female models, Yeager was able to bring out a level of comfort and ease in her models that ogling male photographers could never achieve. As a result, Yeager’s pictures soon started appearing on the covers of pin-up magazines around the country, and she became known as one of the best glamour photographers in the nation. Her iconic images of Bettie Page made her even more famous, and her pictures of Bettie and many other models graced the pages and covers of Playboy Magazine, with whom she worked for decades after establishing a close friendship with Hugh Hefner that continues to this day.
While she continued shooting celebratory images of the female form, Yeager also began writing about the technical aspects of pin-up photography, and over the course of her career published over 30 books on the subject. In addition to doing shoots on and in the beaches, private homes and hotels of Miami, Yeager also traveled internationally, taking photos in Mexico, Guatemala, and Jamaica, where she shot publicity photos of actress Ursula Andress in her role as Bond girl Honey Ryder in the first James Bond film, Dr. No. In 1965, Yeager was commissioned by Playboy to take publicity portraits of the first group of hired beauties at Miami’s new Playboy Club, some of which are displayed in the Playboy Redux exhibition also on this floor of the museum. Yeager actively photographed models well into the last decade, and continues to live and work in Miami where she now focuses on promoting her photographs while working on new books and projects relating to her huge archive of images.
Her first museum show at The Warhol Museum was a survey of self-portrait photographs. Her book, "How I Photograph Myself," published in 1964 by A.S. Barnes & Co., featured hundreds of self-portraits in which Yeager takes on many different looks, styles and moods. In some images, we see a blonde bombshell frolicking in the waves, and in others, we see a stunning brunette straddling the staircase of a large beachfront mansion. Yeager always styled her own backdrops, props and costumes—often making objects and bathing suits from materials at hand. Her unique self-portrait techniques certainly foreshadow the work of contemporary artists Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura, known for their own masquerade-based self-portraiture.
Eric C. Shiner
The Warhol Museum
Milton Fine Curator of Art