Guide to Pin-Up Photography

copyright 1999 by
Bernard of Hollywood Publishing
273 S. Windsor Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004

printed by Evergreen,
an imprint of Taschen Verlag GmbH

first published in 1950 by
Bernard of Hollywood Publishing Co. as
Pin-Ups - a Step Beyond

Bernard of Hollywood Pin-Ups -- Guide to Pin-Up Photography, is a recent re-publication of the book Pin-Ups by Bernard of Hollywood -- A Step Beyond. The modern version appears to be true to the original except for the addition of a forward by Harald Hellmann and text that appears in English, German, and French.

Table of Contents
  • Foreward
  • A Step Beyond
  • Pin-Up as an Art
  • Models and Moods
  • Costuming and Background
  • Illustration versus Photography
  • Composition and Lighting
  • Spark and Spontaneity in Posed Candids
  • Credits
Pin-Ups as an Art

Pin-ups, the pictorial reproduction of the Female Form Divine, are nothing new. The cave drawings of the early stone age might very well be considered the forerunners of the modern pin-up girls who "bewitch, bother and bewilder" us on calendars, magazines and billboards.

The evolvement of pin-ups as an art form, however, is of recent date, and is due mainly to their liberal use in American advertising. All advertising boils down to the stimulation of certain wants, and, once they are established, channeling them in one direction - the house of the advertiser.

Small wonder, then, that the smart American huckster has recruited the services of the ravishing pin-up creature, who calls upon our basic hunger for love which is best stimulated by beauty.

Feminine allure has been ingeniously used to make us buy anything from socks to racing cars, from good to girdles. Our dream girl won't kiss us unless we shave off our whiskers with some particular shaving cream, and once she's kissed us, we risk losing her instantly unless we happen to be using the right kind of mouthwash.

The foremost exploiters of the pin-up have been the Hollywood movie publicity men. The imagination of the heads of the art departments and studio galleries works overtime when it comes to getting a pair of gorgeous gams and a come-hither look in ever new variations on an advertising poster. No matter how little bearing it has on the story content - the provocative display of the perfect feminine figure has always been used as a sure-fire bait to lure the public to the box office.

Motion picture exploitation has made "Cheesecake" (Hollywood lingo for glamorized leg art) as typically American as apple pie. Pressed into the services of the multi-billion-dollar industry, or innocent little pin-up cutie has now the double function of turning not only our heads but also the big wheels of our economy. "Noblesse Oblige," as the Frenchman says, and with its new importance, the pin-up is subjected to certain requirements of the graphic arts.

Let it be emphasized at the outset that in this book we are concerned with the photographically artistic rendition of the pin-up. The borderline between a mere vulgar display of the feminine body and a legitimate work of commercial art cannot be found in the margin of what is revealed to the eye and what is left to the imagination. No one in his right mind will dispute the artistry of the master painters and sculptors in depicting nudes. It is up to the artistic integrity and ability of the artist whether his work merely arouses the animal instincts, or transmits aesthetic values.

The author hopefully submits that his collection of pin-ups falls into the latter category. Each picture has been the result of careful study in composition and lighting, costuming and backgrounds as well as purposeful direction. While the different art elements are discussed with each individual picture, let us attempt here to summarize what gives the pin-up universal appeal.

Obviously, every one of us has a different idea of what constitutes beauty. However, motion pictures, magazines, and the different advertising media have crystallized certain standards of modern beauty. With the proverbial grain of salt contained in all generalizations, it is safe to say that the classic shape of Venus and the buxom ideal of Rubens have given way to the lissom, curvaceous, long-stemmed American beauty as the almost-universally accepted beauty ideal of the Western world.

If an enterprising archeologist, several thousand years from now, should find no other trace of our civilizatio than a capsule containing pin-ups, he could not only deduce from them the beauty ideal of the mid-century Jones and Smith, but could easily reconstruct from them a large sector of our present-day life.

Hi There!
Fresh and invigorating as an ocean breeze is this medium shot of a bathing beauty. Since the white sand on the beach acted as a reflector no flash fill-in was necessary. Super D Graflex, 1/200 second at f22.
Neva Gilbert, model and television actress

An elusive, elfin quality keynotes this sensitive study of a fragile, golden- haired beauty. The almost furtive position of the body and the frightened expression of the face make this picture doubly appealing.
Ava Norring, cover girl and television actress

(More photos from this book can be seen at Photo Tips at Susan Bernard's Bernard of Hollywood.)

Models and Moods

A visiting British journalist recently remarked: "The only women in America who look like the girls in 'Vogue' and 'Harper's Bazaar' are the models in 'Vogue' and 'Harper's Bazaar.'" From the standpoint of the pin-up photographer, may we add: Thank God.

The ideal model for pin-up photography should have a slender, youthful figure; long-legged, but with curves in the right places; not as emaciated as the so-called clothes horses who grace our glossy fashion magazines.

Fortunately for us, the average American girl has as perfect a body as can be found anywhere in the world. This is no accident, but the result of a well-coordinated physical education process, a dieting program and bathing-suit fashion trend which has given the body back its natural freedom of movement instead of the unhealthy corseting of yesterday.

Statistics are regularly being published in the women's and models' magazines about ideal weights and measurements. The proportions of the female movie stars and starlets, their health and beauty hints as well as the dimensions of the winners of the annual beauty contests are eagerly studied by girls and women all over the country.

Mothers encourage their daughters in this favorite pastime, as they are fully aware of the fact that to become a successful model may be the quickest way to fame and fortune. It may lead to glorification on the stage by master showmen, to glamorization on film and in magazines by ace photographers or illustrators, and - last but not least - to being literally pinned up on the noses of bombers by the globe-girdling Yanks, and thus being proudly flown to the four corners of the earth.

Now suppose that you have found the ideal pin-up model for your photographic field trip. She may be your best girl, or a photogenic neighbor. Discuss your ideas with her in advance, infuse her with your enthusiasm, tell her you intend to create the most breathtaking pictures, to depict her as "the fairest in the Land." There is no model - amateur or professional - who does not fancy she can go one better on Betty Grable or Polka-Dot Chili Williams. Capitalize on this self-assurance by emphasizing that you are on her side, that she inspires you to grow far above your normal work, and she will reward you by all-out cooperation. With touching patience, she will go through all sorts of contortions on dangerous cliffs and mountains, just to be worthy of the occasion - the creation of a delightfully different pin-up.

Modeling is acting, and photography is directing. You have set the stage psychologically through your tactful and enthusiastic behavior, your model is in the right frame of mind... Now comes the most difficult part: to get the proper mood for the picture. Like a skilled director, you must observe the natural traits of your model, and work from there. Strive to coordinate the expression with the situation, coax your model into emotional projection, because then and only then will you obtain that elusive and alluring quality which makes a pin-up.

There is, of course, no limit to the variety of moods and expressions which you can record with a responsive model. As a general tip: combine a provocative pose with a demure expression. When yourartistic imagination and the playful fantasy of your model are synchronized in perfect teamwork, you cannot fail to create pictures which will make your fellowmen stop, look and pin 'em up.