Bunny Yeager: “Bunny Yeager and Her Circle: Miami’s Golden Age”
Bunny Yeager (1929-2014) was one of the most influential photographers of the modern era. Her self-portraits alone establish her as an innovative and important artist, demonstrating an ability to transform herself for the camera, via clothes, make-up, hair and setting. She would spend hours in front of a mirror trying out different expressions. Her book “How I Photograph Myself” (1964) was a watershed moment in photography, that landed her a spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Those images were featured in an exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in 2010, curated by Eric Shiner.
Born in Wilkensburg, PA and raised in nearby Pitcairn, a small town built around the railroad and the coal industry, she dreamed early about Hollywood, movie stars and beauty queens. Upon her arrival in Miami in 1946, she re-invented herself as a self-assured model and beauty pageant winner. She was featured prominently in the Tourism Board of Miami Beach promotions. At the same time she was designing her own bikinis, before they were widely available.
After taking a course in photography in 1953, she discovered another talent, and her photos of Bettie Page have become iconic. In addition to a Playboy photographer she was also a Girl Scout leader, actress, singer, filmmaker and fashion designer. Her and her husband partnered with Irving Klaw to make several Nudie Cutie films, as well as “Bunny Yeager’s Nude Camera”. Diane Arbus was a fan and called her “The World’s Greatest Pin-Up Photographer”. She was the only with photographer in Miami shooting black models in the 1950’s in Miami. She also taught Sammy Davis Jr. how to shoot models.
She travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, and produced books like “Camera on Mexico” and “Camera on Jamaica”. Self-educated, she was very knowledgable about the Mayan culture and archeology. After shooting for men’s magazines until the early 1970’s, she refused to shoot more graphic work, and started an entertainment and film newspaper called “Stage & Screen”. She continued to shoot photography, but had many other interests.
After leaving the spotlight for many years, the Warhol exhibition marked the beginning of a resurgence of interest in her work, and another museum show at NSU/ Ft. Lauderdale Museum in 2013, curated by Peter Boswell. She produced two landmark books with Rizzoli: “Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom” in 2012 and “Bettie Page: Queen of the Pin-Ups” in 2013. Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, and many of her important papers are housed at the Richter Library/Special Collections at the U. Of Miami. A documentary about her life, directed by Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch, will be released in 2022.