This story originally ran on June 28, 2013.
One day back in 1954, photographer Bunny Yeager snapped photographs of the then unknown Bettie Page posing in front of a Christmas tree. Those images, featuring the now-renowned naughty-but-nice appeal of Page, were sold to Playboy. Almost overnight, those photos catapulted both women's careers.
For Yeager, a model-turned pinup photographer, her success was unlikely for a female photographer during the era. But Yeager plowed her way to the forefront of modeling and photography, eventually becoming a pioneer in the pinup world. Models felt at ease with one of their own, and this sense of trust served Yeager well as she conducted photo shoots, sometimes of nude models, in Miami and around Florida.
While the pinup wholesome appeal was widespread in the 1950s and '60s, the debut of Penthouse Magazine in the 1970s changed the way nudity was appreciated. It was a taste that did not suit Yeager. "When the magazine Penthouse came out they started to show explicit nudity," she recalls. "I sold my pictures to 60 magazines, but they couldn't stay in business because of Penthouse. It was bad for all the magazines, so that left me with nobody to sell to but Playboy." Yeager had shot numerous Playboy centerfolds.
For Yeager following suit with the demand for more provocative images "didn't go with my attitude with shooting nudes." Her unwillingness to compromise her preferred aesthetic brought her photography career to a halt.
Fifty years later, Yeager is making a comeback. The longtime Miami resident, now 84, is back on the art scene with two exhibitions of her latest work. She's currently on view in Wynwood, and there's a summerlong show at Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale. A forthcoming book chronicles her Mexico City trip, and a swimsuit line is to launch this fall.
"Beautiful suits. You'll see. They copied my suits from my photographs," says Yeager of the line designed by German label Bruno Banani.
Attendees of her Florida exhibitions can see Yeager's latest work, images shot at a friend's house in Miami, which are rare since she hasn't shot any commercial assignments in nearly 20 years.
When asked why Yeager has remained in Miami instead of moving to New York while her career had begun to prosper, she credits the beach, her family, and the free spirited feel of the area. "There's a lot of roaming space and so much to see in Florida," she says.
Bunny Yeager will appear for a discussion Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. at Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.