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queer perspectives : pin-up dreams come true

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In my previous article ‘The Power of Pin-up’ I wrote of how pin-up girls have inspired me since I was a teenager and my dream of one day becoming a pin-up. That dream came to fruition late last year.

While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I noticed an advert for a pin-up photo-shoot hosted by the Brisbane based Bombshell Burlesque and Beauty Academy. Here was a chance to play dress ups, act a little, indulge in some self love, and be amongst other women who admired the ideal of the pin-up. I booked straight away!

Then I set about deciding on the look I wanted to create for the shoot. I knew what I wanted and it was going to be something that was an extension of my everyday self. I didn’t want to go with a cheesecake pin-up style, with its kitsch poses and victory roll hairstyles, as it wasn’t me. I wanted to channel the sensual, sexual femme fatales from film noir movies, especially those set in exotic locales. Their strong female sexuality spoke to me and I felt I could carry it off with confidence (something I couldn’t have done when I was younger). I chose outfits that reflected glamour and exoticness – a black satin halter neck gown; black satin house coat; a Dita Von Teese lingerie set with black sheer stockings and a white cheongsam with red and gold Asian styled flowers. On the day of the shoot I styled my hair in 1940′s waves a la Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake. And for my lips I chose red, a staple of my everyday look.

I arrived at the photo-shoot full of excitement and a little apprehension as I didn’t know any of the other women there. As I walked into the studio space I was greeted with a lovely welcome and an offer of champagne which made me feel immediately at ease. I chatted to the make-up artist about wanting to look like Rita Hayworth for the shoot and watched others changing into their outfits and becoming their own version of a pin-up girl. Then it was my turn in front of the camera. For half an hour I posed, tried to channel the femme fatale and the black lingerie clad pin-up; looked as glamorous as I could and had fun! I felt sexy and confident. I was pleased with how my outfits looked and felt chuffed when I received complements on my cheongsam.

Proofs came through not long after and I deliberated over the final photo choice. A few weeks later I received the digital files and I was very pleased. The photos I had selected captured the look I  wanted to achieve. I looked glamorous, elegant, sensuous and sexy. To complete the look I added some vintage effects Including sepia, monochrome, high contrast and accentuating individual colours. I thought I looked like a vintage pin-up and a femme fatale from a move still. My dream was fulfilled.

The photo shoot had been a gift to myself. I could share the photos from the shoot with my partner, but the experience was primarily for me. I think it is true for many women who chose to be photographed in this style. As a sex positive feminist I believe that every woman has the right to chose what she does with her body and her life. If a woman chooses to be photographed in pin-up style on what grounds can someone else object if it was of her own choosing? Is it objectifying if the woman chose to be photographed in this way? If the photos are for a partner that loves and respects her is this objectification or permission to admire?

Personally I believe it is not objectifying, but instead it is empowering and celebratory. During and after the photo-shoot I felt more self confident (I had to get undressed in an open studio space in front of ten other women) and I had a heightened awareness of my physical attributes and female sexuality. At the shoot, women of many different body shapes and sizes, ages, styles and level of self consciousness had an opportunity to express their individuality and celebrate their own attributes. For me that is what modern day pin-up photography is all about – celebrating the female form in all its diversity in a inclusive, respectful and non-explicit way.

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