Art History – Pin-up

I’ve recently had several requests for pin-up style photo shoots. Pin-up is like no other kind of model photography I’ve ever done. Not only does the photographer have to know what they’re doing, the model has to be completely committed to the style, while also knowing how to move and pose.

A model knowing how to pose sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s really not as simple as that. Most women that have asked me to do these photo shoots have been regular women, not models. You can be a sexy, beautiful girl, but if you’ve never modeled before, don’t start with pin-up.

Pin-up style requires exceptional knowledge of how your body moves and how it looks from all angles. It’s all about exaggerated angles and extra, extra femininity. It’s not at all comfortable and you will be exhausted when it’s all over.

Leading up to a pin-up shoot that I will be doing this week, I wanted to refresh my understanding of the style, so I did some research. I was discussing what I learned and what I would be doing at the photo shoot with a friend. I said that I would be doing a 40’s style pin-up shoot. My friend said, “Pin-up isn’t 40’s. It started way before that.” I didn’t believe them, so I went back to research it more.

Sure enough! Pin-up started back in the 1800’s. Back then, it was much tamer than it later became.


These photos were printed on cards and used to promote actresses, performers and dancers. Women that were in these professions were considered to be wild and loose because they were up in front of people shaking their booties and not at home cooking dinner.

European photographers and models went a little bit further than did those in the U.S. It makes sense when you look at the images of Fernande Barrey, who was a model for the French photographer, Jean Agelou. Her poses are very reminiscent of the portrait models that painters were painting at that time.


Another style of pin-up was the idealized depiction of femininity, such as the Gibson girl, popularized by Charles Dana Gibson.


In contrast to the Gibson Girl, there were the Vargas girlsdrawn by Alberto Vargas and printed in men’s magazines. These girls were the precursors to Playboy models.


All of these styles continued up until WWII, when pin-up girls were used to keep up the spirits of the soldiers fighting overseas. Not only were soldiers sent care packages of pin-up related material, they also painted the girls on the noses of their planes.


After the war, the style gradually turned into the Bombshell photo. The most well known model for this style is probably Marilyn Monroe.

Annex - Monroe, Marilyn_063

Pin-up girls have never really gone out of fashion, but in recent years, the style has made a serious comeback. I would credit the resurgence to the amazing and beautiful Dita Von Teese.

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I love art history! And I love learning new things!


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