In a town with this much love for vintage, it comes as little surprise that there's a photo studio that caters specifically to fans of retro-style pin-up photography, in that they have a huge studio, an enormous wealth of wardrobe, hair and makeup services, and experienced assistance to help you model for your own classic pin-up style portraits. It's called Pop Art Pinup, and I recently had the goofy-fun pleasure of sampling the experience.
In an assuming SE Industrial building stands a surprisingly spacious—and when I say "spacious" I mean "amazingly huge" suite that houses both Pop Art and Tatyana Cathcart's Baby Girl Boutique. There's a velvety, lounge-y office space, a large warehouse for Cathcart's inventory of pinup style clothing, costumes, and accessories, and a roomy photo studio with an attached dressing room. Pop Art owner and photographer Tony Mancini has a symbiotic partnership with Cathcart, and is able to use much of her vast inventory as costuming for his shoots.
"My background is as a visual artist," says Mancini. "Photographically, I practiced still life and macro photography—lots of pictures of flowers and bees—but I also used the camera when planning a painting or drawing as a visual reference. This was important for portraits as I could not pay a model to sit for me for that long. It was a natural progression to start processing the images as works of their own. I'd develop the film in my kitchen, and print in my laundry room—very do-it-yourself. Once I switched to digital I started doing more photography than anything else, and after practicing portrait, fashion, still life, and other forms of studio photography, I found myself shooting pinups more than anything else."
Along with Mancini and Cathcart—who, at least in my experience was very hands off other than in supplying the wardrobe, from which I was able to pick my own getup—is stylist Kira Distler, a very sweet model and self-taught hair and makeup artist who is not shy with her falsies and mascara wand (nothing peeves me more than a mere single coat of mascara) and draws some of the most impressively dramatic cat-eyes I've ever worn. Having been in front of the lens many, many times for this style of shoot, she obviously has a good handle on what works best in the final product. Her experience also made her a great help on set. Pin-up style is over-the-top cheesy, with big goofy grins and "s-shape" postures, and she helped make it fun and easy instead of awkward.
"I'm fascinated with classic pinup illustration, the work of artists such as Charles Dana Gibson, Gil Elvgren, Earl Moran, Vargas, and others," continues Mancini. "I'd try to create photographs that looked like old pinup illustrations, and Kira modeled for most of them. It was natural for us to concentrate exclusively on pinup photography because of our love of classic pinup illustration and a desire to create positive, fun, colorful images."
Mancini also is great with direction, which amateurs like me are always grateful for. Also helpful is the fact that Mancini works quickly. Modeling, while usually fun, is work, especially if it goes on for too long, but having people who are specific and un-shy goes a long way toward getting what you're after efficiently. Mancini says their clients include people "from all walks of life. There is no typical age or background, but the attitudes are often the same. We find our clients confident, liberated and looking for an empowering way to express themselves and enjoy a positive, memorable experience. Plus, we have found that everyone loves to play dress up."
Hello, Christmas cards! Or, an idea I think is really cute, is that Pin Up will make you your own calendar. Either 12 months of you in different get-ups, or you and a group of your friends. Mancini told me that a bride and her bridesmaids all did this once, which sounds like a super-fun way to create keepsake. As for my own shots, which involve a travel theme and leopard print pencil skirt, I'll be keeping those under wraps for now, but you should check out Pop Art's gallery to get a sense of the mood and variety.
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