In Ample Beauty, I pay homage to classic pinup nude. A key element of my style to choose colors with the same discretion as when painting with oils. In art school, I learned to draw, paint, and make photographs. I learned not only to appreciate the choice of subject but to also accentuate details. A prime example of this is color schemes that evoke emotions.
Using the technique of false color, I produced a restrained color palette. The method is inspired by oil painting, where the artist imagines colors that, although conceivable, don’t duplicate the subject’s natural appearance. This process also pays homage to the classic technique of hand-colored photography. My methods shares other techniques learned through painting, being applied selectively to areas of the image. Painters will often tint shadows and highlights differently in order to give a greater illusion of depth as well as setting a mood. For example, a warm-toned subject appears to protrude from cool-toned surroundings.
To elicit an emotional response, my process extends far beyond the initial photo shoot. I make extensive adjustments to composition and color to impart my style. The color shifts and angles of view range from obvious to subtle. Although proficiency is important to me, my technique is only a means to an end and not a tour de force. My mind is fixed on designing the scene in front of the camera and interpreting it in a way that engages the viewer.
My formative years were interspersed with influences of pinup nude. My earliest exposure was a book by Hajime Sorayama, simply titled Pin-up, which I surreptitiously ordered at the age of thirteen to avoid the scrutiny by my parents. In my later teens, seeing the painting Great American Nude by Tom Wesselmann in a museum was my first clue that this type of art was not taboo to everyone. Years later, in art school, I was further influenced by the paintings of Olivia De Berardinis and photography of Helmut Newton.
American classic pinups were predominately scantily clad subjects in paintings and illustrations. Some consider the golden age of pinup to have begun in the 1920s, and flourished through the 1960s. Notable pinup artists include Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren. It wasn’t long before photography began to imitate the costumes and scenarios of pinup paintings and drawings. Although the classic style of pinup is thought of as clothed subjects, nude imagery began to emerge as well. One of the first pinup nudes I remember seeing was Marilyn Monroe in the photo used for the first Playboy Magazine published in 1953. I later learned about fetish photography through the work of a pioneer, Bettie Page. Although my style is far from fetish, an awareness of the genre by both me and the models influences the outcome of our work.
There are two distinct themes in the pinup genre. The first involves skimpy costumes such as bikinis or nightgowns. The second motif involves attractive young women in normal clothing that has suddenly become revealing. A well-known example of this is a dress being blown into the air as a woman walks over a subway grate. Number Please by Art Frahm shows a woman whose dress has been caught in the door as she exits a phone booth; her underpants have implausibly fallen to her ankles in the mishap. The image shows a man looking on in amusement. This genre titillated the viewer with fantasy scenarios that departed from the modesty of the era.
The pinups of the past mostly depict women as partly complicit and unaware of being the subject of the voyeur. In contrast, my collaborators are fully invested in the undertaking. The naive innocence of the venerable themes unfolds to playful performances. The contemporary model’s on-camera charisma is often a reinterpretation of the personalities of her forerunners. The models and I could not have created these images without some interpretation of the ideas of those who have gone before us. Although elements of pinup have been conspicuous in my work for a while, it is a privilege to pay tribute to past artists by re-imagining the pinup nude theme with this book, my first compilation dedicated to the genre.