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Bunny Yeager Dies 85

May 26, 2014 by  

Bunny Yeager Dies 85, Bunny Yeager, a model-turned-photographer whose images of a scarcely clad Bettie Page, embodying feral sexuality and winsome naïveté all at once, helped propel Ms. Page to international stardom as a midcentury pinup queen, died on Sunday in North Miami, Fla. She was 85.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said her agent, Ed Christin.

Ms. Yeager, who took up her art by accident, was one of the world’s most celebrated photographers of female nudes and near-nudes of the 1950s and ’60s. She is widely credited with helping turn the erotic pinup – long a murky enterprise in every sense of the word – into high photographic art.

Her work appeared in Playboy, for which she shot a string of centerfolds, and in a spate of postwar men’s magazines whose names – Cavalier, Escapade, Nugget, Fling, Sunbathing, National Police Gazette, Figure Quarterly – recall a bygone era of salacious innocence.

Ms. Yeager’s work, which fell dormant in the 1970s and remained so for decades as many of those magazines folded, has lately enjoyed a renaissance.

In 2010, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh mounted a show – the first museum exhibition of her career – of Ms. Yeager’s self-portraits. As artfully sensual as anything she shot from behind the camera, they prefigure the work of self-photographing artists like Cindy Sherman.

Other exhibitions followed, including “Bunny Yeager: Both Sides of the Camera,” on view last year at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale.

Ms. Yeager was played by Sarah Paulson in the 2005 film “The Notorious Bettie Page,” which starred Gretchen Mol in the title role.

For all the luminous women Ms. Yeager photographed over the years, she remained best known for her work with Ms. Page, whom she shot a thousand times during their brief collaboration in 1954.

“Oh, she was beautiful!” Ms. Yeager told The Miami Herald last year. “When I told her I thought I might want to photograph her nude, she said, ‘Funny, I sunbathe nude and I have a tan like this all over.’ And she did, everywhere, even behind her knees and all the places you wouldn’t think.”

More than 250 previously unpublished photos by Ms. Yeager are collected in the coffee-table book “Bettie Page: Queen of Curves,” with text by Petra Mason, to appear in October.

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