Pin-Up Photographer Peter Gowland Dies at 93


Architect of the old-school pin-up paradigm Peter Gowland died earlier this month atage 93, according to this weekend’s obit in the New York Times. In his lengthy career, in which Gowland shot over 1,000 magazine covers and made pin-ups out of celebrities from Raquel Welch to Ann-Margret, the photographer “took the cheese out of cheesecake,” lending a wholesome, sunny vibe to the barely-clothed female figures ogled the nation over. He was also inventive, devising foot supports for tired models and most notably, his own model of cameras, including the 4″ x 5″ format twin-lens Gowlandflex camera, later purchased by everyone from Annie Leibowitz to the F.B.I. Preview some of Gowland’s work and get pin-up tips from the master, after the jump.

Some rules of thumb for pin-up photography, according to the man the New York Times once called “America’s No. 1 Pin-up Photographer”:

— Before posing your model, analyze her best features then look for her poorest features. — Heavy legs can be minimized by a seated pose with legs bent and feet behind her. A good picture can be ruined if the feet or hands are too close to the lens, making them appear twice normal size. — Placement of arms is often a dilemma for both model and photographer. Props help. In the woods she might hang on a tree, work with flowers or toss leaves in the air. At the beach, a towel is a natural prop. At home there are unlimited props: chairs, magazines, pillows, curtains, wine glass, or food. — The head tipped down gives an intimate expression but only if the nose is normal length or short. It can’t be used on every model. — Try to compose your pictures with strong diagonal lines. This is pleasing to the eye and can bring the camera closer to the model.

Raquel Welch, Ridge Tool 1964 (left) and Joan Collins (right), whom Gowland states was “a pleasure to photograph.”

Actress Mary Tyler Moore in 1958, a typical Gowland beach glamour shot, and a magazine cover from 1948.

Gowland shot entire series of his favorite subjects, from pin-up standard Jayne Mansfield…

… to aging novelist Henry Miller.

All photos © Peter Gowland.