The cover of Bunny Yeager's ABC's of Figure Photography (1964), which featured one of the many pinups that the photographer shot of herself.
In 1956, Hollywood glamour photographer Danny Rouzer wrote the following about Miss Yeager: "One of the finest pin-up photographers is Bunny Yeager, who is highly successful because she knows exactly what the procedure is for profitable pin-up work. A former model herself, she makes her own bikinis and pin-up costumes, but she gives her models the opportunity to select a costume that doesn't conflict with their personalities. Bunny is a pin-up photographer who goes so far as to create something new in the way of costumes for every girl she photographs."
I suppose such high praise from a fellow glamour photographer wouldn't be that remarkable, except for the fact that just four years earlier, Bunny Yeager was a glamour model with little experience behind the camera. She had only just recently started taking a photography course after watching a male friend develop and print the photos he'd taken of her. She was enthralled by the whole process, and wanted to learn, partly because it was related to her work as a model. When Roy Pinney, a photographer she'd worked with the previous year, discovered that she was taking the course, he knew that it would make for a great photo story that he could submit to a magazine. The resulting article, showing Bunny photographing a model on the beach, appeared in a magazine supplement to a large number of national and local newspapers, and she became famous overnight. A similar article appeared in U.S. Camera in Aug. 1953, where she was proclaimed "The World's Prettiest Photographer". Soon, she was fielding offers from several agents, and after choosing one, sold her first picture to Eye magazine, for their March 1954 issue. Her first photo sale and also her first magazine cover as a bona fide pin-up photographer!
In an amazingly short period of time, Bunny had mastered the technical aspects of photography, lighting, and had quickly acquired the professional photographic equipment she'd need. 1954 also happened to be the year that Bunny met up with Bettie Page, and the photos they created together were destined to become iconic glamour images. That very same year, she photographed a Christmas themed pin-up of her new model, planning to submit it to a calendar company. Not knowing how to locate one, she decided to send it to Playboy instead. Hugh Hefner quickly snapped it up and published it in the January 1955 Holiday issue. In less than 2 years after being propelled into the role of a glamour photographer, Bunny had photographed her first Playmate of the Month, and there were several more to come:
Lisa Winters (Miss Dec. 1956)
Myrna Weber (Miss Aug. 1958)
Joyce Nizarri (Miss Dec. 1958)
Cindy Fuller (Miss May 1959)
Sandra Settani (Miss April 1963)
Bunny's quick success may have been partially due to her having been a model first. She certainly knew posing and how to get the best out of her models, but despite being reluctantly thrust into the job of photographer, she also had a tremendous artistic eye and sense of style. She was a born photographer if ever there was one. In fact, in Rogue magazine she was quoted as saying "I took up photography because I'm a frustrated painter who was never good enough to be the best, and photography is the closest thing to being an artist". We can only hope that if she had not been prodded by Roy Pinney, she would have realized this goal on her own. When Bunny was first getting started, two of her big influences were Andre de Dienes and Peter Gowland. Bunny, however, had created a style like no other. With the sunny beaches of Miami as one of her backdrops, she discovered and captured images of some of the most beautiful models in south Florida. She famously approached one young woman who would become her second Playmate, Lisa Winters, on a Miami bus, and after some coaxing, convinced her to pose. Miss Winters became one of the favorites of the readers of the then three year old Playboy magazine, and also one of Hef's as well.
One of the many photographic skills that Bunny had at her disposal was the ability to find the proper backgrounds for her glamour photos. She would often get permission to shoot in luxurious bachelor apartments, or even used the model's own apartments, when she thought they had the proper style. Always on the lookout for new and interesting backgrounds, she got permission on occasion to use the home of famous Miami sculptor Sepy Debronyi and produced some very eye catching photos there.
After being encouraged by her agent, Bunny wrote the first of her numerous photography books in 1957 (Photographing the Female Figure). This was not only a showcase for her glamour images, but also an informative tome for those interested in pursuing a similar career. Many more books followed, including:
Bunny Yeager's Photo Studies (1960)
Bunny Yeager's Art of Glamour Photography (1962)
How to Take Figure Photos (1962)
How I Photograph Nudes (1963)
How to Photograph the Figure (1963)
How I Photograph Myself (1964)
Bunny Yeager's ABCs of Figure Photography (1964)
Bunny Yeager Photographs Famous Models (1965)
100 Girls (1965)
Bunny Yeager's Camera in the Caribbean (1965)
Bunny Yeager's New Photo Studies (1966)
Bunny Yeager Photographs 50 New Models (1967)
Bunny Yeager's Camera in Mexico (1967)
Bunny Yeager's Camera in Jamaica (1967)
Bunny's Honey's (1996)
Bunny Yeager's Pin-up Girls of the 1950s (2002)
Photographing Girls in Jamaica (2003)
Bunny Yeager's Bikini Girls of the 1950s (2004)
Striptease Artists of the 1950s (2007)
Bunny Yeager's Pin-up Girls of the 1960s (2007)
Bikini Girls of the 1960s (2007)
Bunny Yeager's Flirts of the Fifties (2007)
Femmes Fatales of the 1950s (2008)
Bunny Yeager's Bouffant Beauties (2009)
Bunny was the subject of two semi-documentary films by Barry Mahon entitled Bunny Yeager's Nude Camera (1963) and Bunny Yeager's Nude Las Vegas (1964). Although the films are in no way a true representation of her photography due to the setups and lighting being controlled by producer/director/cameraman Barry Mahon (who apparently had little knowledge of motion picture or still photography lighting), it's still a treat to be able to watch Bunny work with some of her models, including an uncredited Lisa Winters in Nude Camera. Both films are available on DVD through Something Weird Video, although the film prints are not exactly the best quality.
As the title of one of her books listed above indicates (How I Photograph Myself), Bunny often combined her talents and took glamour photos of herself, in addition to her lovely models. It was this book that got the attention of the producers of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and she was invited to appear on the show as a guest in the mid 1960s.
Camera equipment used by Bunny in those years included her Rolleiflex (with the Zeiss Tessar 75mm f/3.5 lens), a 4x5 Speed Graphic, and her Burke and James 8x10 camera that she used to shoot her Playboy centerfolds. For b&w medium format (her Rolleiflex), she used a lot of Tri-X and for medium and large format color, I believe she used Ektachrome transparency film.
Aside from her work with Playboy, Bunny's photos were featured in many other men's magazines of the day. One of the better magazines that regularly used her work was Rogue (from the years 1955-1965, it was an excellent magazine, but quality suddenly took a nose dive after 1965, when it was sold to another company and pictorial and editorial oversight became almost nonexistant).
May 1959 issue Sept. 1959 issue
Bunny Yeager photographed more models than can reasonably be listed on this page, but some of my favorites include Diane Webber, Ginger Meadows, Christine Starr, Babe Collins, Linda Vargas, Joyce Nizzari, Carrie Price, Jackie Miller, Lori Shea, Lisa Winters, Teddi McNeill, Della Vaughn, Laura Taylor, Betsy Pierce, Cheryl Shrode, Tracy Vance, and of course, Bettie Page.
Today, Bunny continues to operate her studio in Miami, FL and is still very much involved in glamour photography. She is also currently selling autographed copies of many of her photos on ebay, so if you'd like to have some beautiful photos and also own a piece of 50s and 60s glamour history, please consider purchasing some of her amazing images.
Update - It is with great sadness that I report the death of Bunny Yeager on May 25, 2014 at the age of 85. She succumbed from the effects of a chronic heart condition. To read an obituary of Ms. Yeager, please visit this page.
To read an email that Bunny Yeager wrote to me shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit Miami in August 2005, click here.
Below is a video clip of Bunny Yeager's July 14, 1957 appearance on "What's My Line?".