Linnea Eleanor "Bunny" Yeager was an American photographer and pin-up model. She was born in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, to Raymond Conrad and Linnea (née Sherlin) Yeager on March 13, 1929. Her family moved to Florida when she was 17. She adopted the nickname "Bunny" from Lana Turner's character Bunny Smith in the 1945 movie Week-End at the Waldorf
. The nickname has also been attributed to her portrayal of the Easter Bunny in a high school play. Bunny Yeager
graduated from Miami Edison High School and afterward enrolled at the Coronet Modeling School and Agency. She won numerous local beauty pageants including in rapid succession Queen of Miami
, Florida Orchid Queen
, Miss Trailercoach of Dade County
, Miss Army & Air Force
, Miss Personality of Miami Beach
, Queen of the Sports Carnival
and Cheesecake Queen of 1951
Yeager became one of the most photographed models in Miami. Photos of Yeager appeared in over 300 newspapers and magazines. She also designed and sewed many of the outfits she and her models wore, at one time boasting that she never wore the same outfit twice while modeling. She designed and produced hundreds of bikinis when the two-piece swimsuit was a new fashion item and is credited with its popularity in America. Bruno Banani
, the German fashion company, has developed a line of swimwear based on Yeager's designs from the 1950s.
Yeager entered photography to save money by copying her modeling photographs, enrolling in a night class at a vocational school in 1953. Her career as a professional photographer began when a picture of Maria Stinger
, taken for her first school assignment, was sold to Eye magazine
for the cover of the March 1954 issue. She became a technically skilled photographer noted for, among other things, her early use of the fill flash technique to lighten dark shadows when shooting in bright sun. Yeager was one of the first photographers to photograph her models outdoors with natural light. Matt Schudel
wrote in the Washington Post
that her images were vivid and dynamic, going on to say, "She favored active poses and a direct gaze at the camera lens, in what could be interpreted alternately as playful innocence or pure lust."
She met Bettie Page
in 1954, and took most of the photographs of her that year. During their brief collaboration, she took over 1,000 pictures of Page. Along with photographer Irving Klaw
, Yeager played a role in helping to make Page famous, particularly with her photos in Playboy
magazine. American Photo magazine described Yeager's work with Page as "a body of imagery that remains some of the most memorable — and endearing — erotica on record"
in a 1993 article. The most famous images of Page by Yeager include the January 1955 Playboy centerfold in which she kneels wearing only a Santa hat while hanging a silver ornament on a Christmas tree and a series of photographs with a pair of live cheetahs.
Yeager was a very prolific and successful pinup photographer in the 1950s and 1960s, so much so, that her work was described as ubiquitous in that era. She continued to work extensively with Playboy shooting eight centerfolds in addition to covers and pictorial spreads. She discovered Lisa Winters
, the first Playmate of the Year
. Yeager also appeared in the magazine as a model five times. One appearance with the headline, "Queen of the Playboy Centerfolds"
, was photographed by Hugh Hefner
Her work was also published in mainstream magazines including Cosmopolitan
and Women's Wear Daily
. The famous still images she took of Ursula Andress
emerging from the water on the beach in Jamaica for the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No
are probably her best-known bikini photographs. She discovered many notable models. In the 1970s as men's magazines became more anatomically graphic Yeager largely stopped photographing for them, saying they were somewhat "smutty"
and that, "They had girls showing more than they should."
In 1998 she stated, "The kind of photographs they wanted was something I wasn't prepared to do."
An exhibition titled Beach Babes Bash
in the early 1990s at the Center for Visual Communication
(at that time located in Coral Gables, Florida) featured photographs by Yeager of models from Miami on the beach from the 1950s. Another exhibit at the same gallery featuring Yeager's work was titled Sex Sirens of the Sixties
. In 1992 Playboy published a retrospective of her work titled The Bettie Boom
. Since 2002, Yeager's work has been exhibited in contemporary art galleries.
In early 2010, The Andy Warhol Museum
held the first major museum exhibition of Yeager's work. The exhibit, The Legendary Queen of the Pin Up
, featured her self-portraits, some from her book How I Photograph Myself
published by A.S. Barnes & Co. in 1964. The Fabulous Bunny Yeager
an exhibit in 2011 at the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami also featuring self-portraits by Yeager was of photographs that had not been exhibited previously. Also in 2011 Helmut Schuster
curated an exhibition for Art Basel at the Dezer Schauhalle in Miami titled Bunny Yeager: Retrospective to the Future
featuring over 200 of Yeager's photos. Included were some images that had not been shown before of models including Bettie Page.
In 2012 Bunny Yeager had two exhibitions in Germany, Funland
at Gallery Schuster Potsdam and Femme Fatale
in December 2012 at Gallery Schuster Berlin. The Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale held a 2013 exhibit, Bunny Yeager: Both Sides of the Camera
featuring her photographs of herself, Page, and model Paz de la Huerta. The exhibit also included some of Yeager's first new pictures in twenty years. Yeager had a show at the Sofia Vault in Sofia, Bulgaria in October 2013. The Gavlak Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida put on an exhibit, Bunny Yeager: Selections from How I Photograph Myself
in 2014. The Sin City Gallery in Las Vegas held a posthumous exhibit, Bunny's Bombshells
, from June 5 to July 20 2014.
She had her own studio in the Wynwood Art District of Miami, part of the Center for Visual Communication. There is a "Bunny Yeager Lounge"
in Berlin which is open to the public and shows photos, memorabilia and movies. Yeager was also founding editor and publisher of a trade magazine for entertainment professionals, Florida Stage & Screen. As of 1998 her 24 books had sold over 1 million copies. Bunny Yeager was married twice, first to Arthur Irwin
who died in 1977 and then to Harry Schaefer
who died in 2000. She had two daughters, Lisa and Cherilu. Yeager died on May 25, 2014 of congestive heart failure at age 85 in North Miami, Florida.