Let’s face it. Everyone loves looking at pretty women. Men and women alike have stared in awe at the female form. From Ancient Greek drawings on vases, to the rubenesque women of the Renassaince, there has always been a sector of art that existed to celebrate the female form. Pinup is the continuation of this movement. Pinup modeling is more than just pretty women, but the pretty women are important.
We linked up Kathleen Ryan, producer of the upcoming film “Pin Up! The Movie” and Dapper Dan Doll, one of the models featured in the movie. The movie, which is seeking Kickstarter funding for entries around the festival circuit, looks to showcase an often misunderstood art form and shed light on what it takes to become a pin up girl.
The conversation touched on nudity, feminism and being classy.
What is it about Pin Up modeling that makes a story compelling enough for a documentary?
Dapper Dan Doll
Pinup in general is becoming such a huge subculture like comic con and people that do cosplay or people that L.A.R.P. I always like to say I’m the L.A.R.P’ing nerd of pinup but have traded the foam sword for a garter belt. It’s such a popular culture that you can go virtually anywhere and see a pinup girl on some companies advertising, a girl walking down the street with some sort of the victory roll or pencil skirt and never mind the masses of boudoir photographers turned pinup photographers touting empowering everyday women.
It is everywhere right now but very few of the fans or the ladies that admire pinup get to see what is involved with the culture and recreation of that time.They get a view of how we get ourselves together, how each of us lives completely different from one another, how we all have our own style and opinions on pinup in general. It is also such a huge part of one of our biggest wars. We have documentaries, movies and shows left and right about WWII. Flip to the history channel and I guarantee it is “Hitlers Spies” or “WWII in Color”. Turn to TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and many times it will be a WWII movie.
This will be the first documentary of modern women paying tribute to that time in Pinup and recreating those images and supporting modern soldiers and vets. Its compelling enough because we are not all out to get famous and we are not all dumb models that just want to take pretty pictures and we let the viewer know why we are here and give them a glimpse into the pretty and the petty of our culture.
How does pinup culture fit in with the resurgence of the feminist movement? Do you think it complements it?
Oh this is one of my favorite things that I discovered in doing this project. There is a longstanding feminist history of the pin up – Maria Elena Buszek traces it in her terrific book Pin Up Grrrls going all the way back to burlesque performers in the mid 1800s who used to use basically what we would consider business cards with their photographs on it in provocative pose to promote their acts. She says that what pin ups did historically was offer a socially accepted space for women to explore their sexuality and roles in society. This was throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.So flash forward to today, with modern pin ups dressing and posing in a style of what many consider the golden age of the genre – the 1940s and ‘50s. On the one hand it would seem as if the women are actually looking back to a more conservative social era, especially with the 1950s looks. But here’s the rub – nearly every woman I’ve talked to self identifies as feminist. I didn’t do a casting call for “feminist pin ups” when making the film. It’s just something that happened.I think the women in the movement are – to crib an academic phrase from Maria (a producer on the film) – “awarish.” By that she means that they know the history of the pin up, including it’s slightly “naughty” tradition, but also are acting as a part of that tradition by using it as a way to express themselves as sexual, competent, independent women. The women talk about pin ups historically being strong and about how the style offers the diversity to accept a wide range of body types. The resurgence of the pin up style is also very female driven – for the most part it’s not a bunch of male Svengalis demanding that the women act or dress in a certain way. Women are managing their shoots and developing their own look. Of course there are always exceptions, but the modern pin up largely is less about men looking at women and more about women claiming their sexuality on their own terms and expressing it in ways that they find acceptable. And that’s a pretty feminist thing.
I am the farthest thing from associating with Feminism but, it appears, that by doing what I do I am a feminist to some. A lot of extreme feminists would actually say that this is a step back and that we are exploiting our bodies and it is a disgrace to everything every feminist has worked for.I would disagree and kindly tell these types of feminists. Well, I would tell them to suck “it” and I wouldn’t say “it”. For me I think Pinup is a complement. Kathleen said that many of the Pinups out there do it for themselves and that is very true and may do it for other women, as odd as it sounds. The greatest complement we can get is from another women telling us that our hair is great or that they love our shoes.Men tend to miss a lot of those details and many like to comment dumb things like “so sexy,” “I love your curves,” or crap like that. Many are not the type of complements we are looking for when we do pinup. We are looking for people to notice the time and the art. It is also liberating for women of all walks of life to be able to put on a pinup look and feel amazing and beautiful and not rely on anyone else, especially men, to tell them that.That is feminism to me, feeling independent and strong as well as beautiful for yourself and not for anyone else, man or woman.
One of the ladies in the trailer says that pinup “represents class and beauty and sexiness without having to take off your clothes.” How does that match up to what we typically see in pinup portraits where women are very much scantily clad? Or am I way off base?
That’s it exactly.
I think Dapper can really well explain the “naked” issue because she’s done a lot of nude sets. But what I see it as is being about control. B Sinclair – the woman in the trailer who makes that comment – has some dome fairly scantily clad shoots. But the idea is that you don’t HAVE to show it all to be sexy or desirable – the model is doing it on her own terms. Models like Bettie Page, who is considered the grande dame of pin ups, frequently pose nude and in what could be considered sexually “compromising” positions (lots of S&M there). But it’s back to that “awarish” thing – she knew what she was doing, how it fit in the pin up tradition and was in many ways poking fun at the artificiality of the thing (she also frequently designed her own clothes and chose her own props).And if you look at the pin up, you’ll see that in most cases even in these scantily (or naked) photographs, the woman is looking back at the viewer. She’s not the Playmate with here eyes demurely cast down (or closed) where you “catch” her in some act – the pin up is consciously posing and holding the gaze of the person looking at the photo. There’s a challenge there.
I have to say, Kathleen is well versed in the pinup world and all these topics and how they relate to the majority. I, however, only know one opinion on this subject as I am the only one know that does nudes in my pinup group.Nudes in the pinup world are a little controversial as some think they defile what pinup is and what they assume it used to be. A lot of people either don’t know or forget that many ladies before 1950 – and I’m talking all the way back to when cameras were a thing – have taken nudes. Look up Victorian nudes and they are mostly classy, some are raunchy, but most are very artful and beautiful. I think a lot of opinion on pinup and nudity is out of ignorance, even with access to the interwebs. I know many ladies that will never do them and that is the line that you have to draw. I do believe you can be sexy fully clothed.I think there more of a sexiness when you can do fully clothed and get that playful sexiness to come through. It is not easy to do and it is an art, for sure. I like to think that when I do nudes I am doing the same thing but backwards. I want people to notice everything else and forget that I’m actually naked. I wasn’t to have that artistic play where people briefly realize I’m nude but then find themselves forgetting that and realizing that the whole picture is amazing and the nudity adds something extra. It is hard to put into words. I think this is the difference between vintage style pinup nudes and more modern style pinup nudes, which is odd to say since we have playboy because of the vintage style and not it is something completely different.As Kathleen mentioned, it makes a difference with how the model is posed, where here eyes are, how she is engaging with her surroundings. I have seen some modern pinup images that are amazing and not what the layman is used to seeing and I have seen some vintage style clothed shots where I would send it off to Penthouse because it makes cringe at the attention this person is trying to get from the opposite sex, that isn’t what this is about and the ones that don’t understand that will never be able to recreate the type of pinup that embodies the vintage WWII style.It’s also empowering for me to take control of my own images. A big part of my love for pinup is planning the shoots from top to bottom. It ensures that my images come out as my own thoughts. I work with Donigan Artworks a lot because he is one of the only people that will let me have the reigns – a man, letting a woman take the reigns – but he also is great at capturing exactly what’s in my head and also contributing to that. Not many photographers can hand over control or give a model their ideas in a photo.My first nude set was my TV set that I actually did in my own living room. This set was minimal but turned out exactly as I saw it in my head. The posing, my fiances interaction with me, my TV antenna pasties. these are all mine and I can say they came out exact. This is not only empowering as a model to take a lot of control but would be a little feminist too, I think, especially since the photographer is usually the one in control of where the shoots go.
This is an awesome conversation. I love what you’re saying. One thing I’ve always wondered is: Pinup vs. Burlesque? Where is the distinction placed? What’s the line? Is there a line, or am I just guilty of making a connection that’s not there?
For me personally there really isn’t too much of a correlation. They are two separate movements with some gals that cross over into both. They both have the empowering aspect and they both were a big thing back in the 40s, 50s and 60s, but I don’t see many pinups going into burlesque and visa versa.I have personally contemplated doing burlesque but to do both would break my bank. I love burlesque and think the idea behind it is the same as Pinup. You can do burlesque and only have your cloths off for a few minutes or most of the show.You don’t have to have a completely nude show to have the sexiness to it and, as we talked about before, pinup is much the same. I think both realms have respect for each other because we have the same goals, empowering women to take control of their bodies and image and do it on their own terms.
What do you hope to accomplish with the movie?
I don’t really know yet. I haven’t seen the final full cut so I’m not sure what people will see. I do know from what was filmed of me I would want people to get a better understanding of who we are, why we do pinup and where we are with it.I want people to see why I love it and why I have the opinions I do. It’s easy as a fan to appreciate and art by “liking” a photo on Facebook but that is not useful nor support of the people creating it. I would love for people to see this movie and want to get more involved with their local Pinup Charity (most states have at least one or a branch of one) to get to know us more and actually physically support us by helping us out at events or sharing our mission with others they know.Fans are usually never as it as much as the people doing it and I see thateverydaywithPinup. I want people to want to be part of this community as a fan orafellowpinuporpinup photographer. I want them to understand that work that goes into everything we do. it’s not all peaches and cream and we all have our doubts, second thoughts, hair/ makeup issues, fights with each other. The list goes on and by putting some of that in the world I hope people appreciate the end results of what we do.Oh yeah, also, women empowerment and stuff.
Find out more about the upcoming Pin Up! Movie here.