Eleanor 'Bunny' Linnea Yeager (American, 1929-2014) was a photographer who challenged the patriarchy by taking ownership of her own sexuality and allowing her models to do the same. She said “What a boring place the world would be if every woman looked the same as the next … Make the most what you have and enjoy being female; enjoy being YOU.”1 For this fierce force of feminism I am going to drink a cocktail I call Naughty Bunny Tail. It is two parts Tequila Rose and one part whipped cream vodka shaken.
My glass is filled so away we go!
Bunny was a model/photographer focusing on self portraits.
In her work she often posed in costumes with props and had her models do the same. By changing up the subject's appearance she created a variety of personas. Constantly changing between characters and being both the subject and photographer make for beautiful and revolutionary perspectives in her work.
As important as Bunny's self portraits are, she is best known for her iconic work with undisputed pin up queen Bettie Page and Playboy Magazine.
Her photo of a nude Bettie decorating a Christmas tree was actually the first Christmas centerfold in the magazine! Some of her photos with Bettie are ... erm....NSFW but are not to be confused with the fetish photos Bettie did with Irving Klaw which are VERY NSFW. Those are a topic for another day .... maybe ... but anyways ....
At first glance Bunny's self portraits and photos of Bettie could be written off as 'cheesecake' made for the male gaze but there is more substance to them. Bunny is actually using the male gaze against itself . By using costumes and props she was showing how fluctuating outward appearances are. She also addresses “ ... how women are viewed by men, who of course have different ideas of women. They don’t see the real girl — they see her as something else.”2 The costumes have the ability to completely change how the subject is viewed.
On top of her success as a model and photographer she was also an author. Her books How to Photograph Nudes and How I Photograph Myself would influence future artists like Cindy Sherman. 3 Playing with identity is definitely a common theme for these two ladies. I would argue that there is also some Bunny Yeager influence in Mariko Mori and Miwa Yanagi's work.
Miwa Yanagi, Elevator Girl House 1F, C Print, 1997
All four women use costume and femininity to confront how women are represented in art and society.
Bunny Yeager was a pioneer of photography, feminism and re-defining female sexuality. I will leave you with a Bunny quote that I particularly enjoy : "I wasn’t interested in competing with male photographers, or doing anything that had to do with them, because I wanted to be original and have my own feelings and abilities to put forth my ideas and execute them into photo stories. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, not what men had done.”4 In an era where few women were taken seriously as professionals Bunny was respected and successful and for that I love her!
I hope you enjoyed smashing the patriarchy with Bunny and check out my gallery. Cheers!!!
1,2 &4) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pinup-provocateur-bunny-yeager-didnt-give-a-crap-about-the-male-gaze_us_55ba90eee4b0d4f33a0222fe
For more on Bettie Page I suggest watching the 2005 film 'The Notorious Bettie Page.'