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THE PIN-UP AS ART
t’s not really far removed
little girl, posing my Barbie
dolls in their new fashion
in front of their pink
Cor vette,” Helen McLean tells me. Classically
trained during ar t school, McLean put away the
oils (and the Barbie models) in favour of a camera
and vintage petticoats. While she has numerous
proje cts in the works, her booming photography
company is in the business of providing discerning
contemporar y ladies photos of themselves as sexy,
“Style, politeness and chivalry are somewhat
lacking in today’s day and age. There’s not much of
it these days and I think there’s still room for it,”
McLean says, after cringing over 80s shoulder pads
and dismissing the fashion of the 90s and onwards.
A tr ue lover of vintag e eras and confident
women, McLean keeps old-school glamour alive
- and helps reg ular girls make all those Mad Men
fashion fantasies come true.
Pin-ups always look incredibly confident,
both in themselves and in the power of their
sexuality. What’s their secret?
Pin-ups naturally look confident due to their
upright poses, ang ular arms, seductive eyes and the
all important “show a bit of leg” during any scenario.
I’m always checking from head-to-toe before
shooting ; are they sitting upright, hands placed
correctly, elbows out and pointed toes? By the end,
I’m sure they leave the studio walking taller.
How do you transform a regular Aussie girl into
a 1940s pin-up?
Most ladies who come to me are not models.
So understandably I get admissions of ner ves
when they first arrive. I tell them that it’s totally
normal to be ner vous and that they have nothing
to worr y about when it comes to posing , as I will
direct them 100% of the way. They won’t be left in
the studio to do their own thing , although I don’t
discourag e it – I know what works to create that
stunning and classic pose.
The first two hours of a booking is spent with
my stylist, after discussing with me potential
hairstyles to suit their face shape. Once the client
is ready, we help them g et into their first outfit.
This can be some process, as most of the time it
includes suspenders, stocking s and petticoats. It’s
a great way to break the ice when I
have my head up their skirt
I always g et in the studio
to show the pose before they
get into it themselves. We
usually get a few laughs out
of the sounds I request from
them, to create the looks of
“Oooooh” and “Ahhhhh.”
How do we keep vintage
Apar t from the recent rise
in retro re-production fashion
labels popping up, we haven’t
really had much choice in
classic fashion. Now that there
are many labels it’s easy and
affordable to g et frocked up to
the nines. It’s hard to tell where
we are headed with fashion the
way it is, howe ver with internet shopping being
so popular and there no need for labels to have
a store front – it gives us, the buyer, much more
choice – whatever your favourite era.
What’s the best part of your job?
The satisfaction I get creatively and the
satisfaction I get seeing how happy the client is
during the whole process. Some girls are seriously
in disbelief when I show them shots on the back
of my camera. It’s a great moment to share with
How do we keep up with you, and how does
a future pin-up go about scheduling a shoot?
My rambling s and re cent photog raphic shots
can be found on Facebook, extra nonsensical
rambling s on Twitter, and most info about myself
and my work, including photo shoot packages,
can be found on my website.
Want to learn more about Helen and her pin-
up gals? friend her on facebook -facebook.
com/helenmcleanart; send her a tweet
twitter.com/helenmclean or drop in online
Pin-ups began as a
low-brow art form,
a flirtation between
burlesque and porn. It
used to be that pin-ups
were what got a man
through war. One of
the most famous
images is one of Betty
Grable looking over
her shoulder, a come-
look on her face. Her
poster was basically
a mandatory item
in the lockers of
American G.I .’s
during World War II.
pin-ups were of celebrities
or film stars, the idea behind them has always
been a mix of glamour and the girl-next-door. She
could be the girl left behind at home, or a symbol
of what a man is fighting for.
The popularity of pin-ups had a lot to do with their
accessibility – the images could be cut out of
magazines or newspapers, or from postcards or
calendars. Posters were popular but came later, as
popularity of the pin-up girl increased.
Feminists have raised their voices over pin-ups
over the years, arguing on one side that pin-ups
are idealized and unrealistic versions of what
a woman should look like, with the other side
seeing it as a celebration of the female form
because if there’s one thing you can say about
pin-ups it’s curves, curves, curves.
The feminist argument is important because pin-ups
began about the time woman’s rights began to enter
into the national and global dialogue. Both pin-ups
and suffrage developed side-by-side, and their roads
aren’t necessarily separate. Pin-ups became a way
to measure how far women had come – or how
much left of that road we still had to go.
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