A Quick Tribute to Bunny Yeager (& Bettie Page)

It’s been a bad week for women who changed the way the world turned the last half a century. There was of course the loss of three-time Grammy winning, Pulitzer and Tony-nominated Presidential Medal of Honor recipient Maya Angelou, who, rightfully, was paid tribute just about every place where sentences are still structured, and there was the loss of revolutionary photographer (and longtime Miami resident) Bunny Yeager, who, though earning notice in The Washington Post, The Morning Sun and Los Angeles Times (as well as our own Miami New Times), also deserves to be remembered wherever sentences still tally — or, more to the point, wherever photographs take place.
Why? Because she was the pin-up girl turned lenschick whose snaps of Bettie Page set a new stage in, er, development, and whose pioneering efforts not just reinvented an art form, it altered the very manner in which the world sees women — on both sides of the lens.

Few folk know this better than Petra Mason, whose collidings with the late great gal can be seen in 2012’s Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom, as well as the forthcoming Bettie Page: Queen of Curves, which racks this Fall. Here are a few choice memories regarding one of Miami’s most memorable, fascinating and delightful figures.

For those few who still don’t know, who was Bunny Yeager and how did she affect the world of photography?

“The world’s prettiest photographer” – a pin-up turned photographer. A genuinely self-made and woman whose pioneering work was done in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Her self-portraits in How I Photograph Myself her last hardcover pre-dating was ultra-modern and pioneered the “selfie” and capturing Bettie Page in the Sunshine State.

How did you first become involved with the legend?

For years I looked her up online and was surprised to find her studio address listed including a telephone number and physical address. For me she was such an icon I was amazed to see how contactable she was. I never called her up until in August 2010, a month after moving from New York to Miami I spoke to Mitchell Kaplan at Books & Books and he set up an introduction and the Rizzoli book Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom, which consists of images from when pin-up photography’s golden era was born.

Was Bunny hands on the whole way?

Bunny was very secretive and needless to say, given the types she’d had to deal with in the carny/pin-up world it was not easy to win her trust, let alone to access her very darkroom, but I did. Much of what I found was not yet even scanned.

Rumor has it the world is soon to see even more from Ms Yeager’s darkroom, yes?

Yes! Bettie Page: Queen of Curves is 100% Bunny and Bettie in Miami. They worked together for a period of only about 10 months in Florida when Bettie escaped the Blue Heat in New York who were after her and Irving Klaw for the racy bondage sessions they did.

It’s a tribute to two genuinely self made and admirable women from near the bottom of the barrel. To really dignify both Bettie and Bunny without any verbal or visual photoshopping.

If you had but a single sentence for which the world might best remember Bunny Yeager, what would it be?

Self-made.

WORDS BY John Hood

PHOTOS BY Bunny Yeager, Bunny Yeager’s / Darkroom, 2012. / Courtesy of Rizzoli New York.

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