‘I’m nostalgic for a time period I didn’t exist in,’ says James Mullineaux, who was born in 1975 but often harks back to the Fifties in his pinup work.
What particularly appeals to him about the genre is that, because it’s already retro, it’s timeless. It may be relevant that the other main strand of his work concentrates on entropy: the progressive decay of the manmade world around him, as seen in the crumbling industrial infrastructure of Michigan. (He’s based in Saginaw.) In contrast, pinup shots are safe from the depredations of time, because, in a sense, they already belong to the past and so will never date.
As you can see, some of his work includes a modicum of nudity.
But he prefers to leave something to the imagination.
That’s because, he says, he wants to be sexy without being exploitative:
‘The stereotypical pinup costume – high heels, thigh-highs, garter, boy shorts, corset, opera gloves – covers most of a model while still being immediately recognizable as sexy. Pinup is fun, campy, kitschy, tongue-in-cheek, and flirty. In short, it’s a great alternative to modern depictions of female sensuality.’
In fact, covering up can be sexier!
He also prefers not to present the models as helpless or powerless.
‘There’s a certain strength in the expression and pose of a pinup, it’s not authentically coy or bashful. A pinup does not negotiate its sensuality from a position of inequality. She’s proud of her curves, fearless in her beauty, and having fun teasing her audience. That’s what I want to photograph.’
So he often uses a relatively low shooting angle to give the sense that the subject of the photograph is in control:
The shoot that interests us took place on January 5, 2011, and the model who’s going to be in control is Amie Burke.
She’s a great pinup model…
… but not only a pinup model: she’s also a roller derby girl!
Joining her, and much less in control, will be a model named Aedan, who has not been traced elsewhere.
James drew inspiration for the shoot from classic nude photography, and especially from the fetish work of Irving Klaw. He astutely noticed there was a mismatch between what the photography thought it was doing and its actual effect on the viewer: it ‘tried to be serious but was so obviously staged it was hard to fully suspend disbelief’. So what he tried to recreate was the camp, ‘kitschy self-awareness’ of the imagery, the sense of ‘fun and theater subverting the subject matter’.
Here’s what he achieved:
And, even better:
If you are interested in James Mullineaux’ work, please visit his online portfolio.