Chus Martinez On The Pin-Up

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Above Chus Martinez pin-up girl.

A pin-up girl is a model whose mass-produced pictures form a part of popular culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display, e.g. meant to be “pinned-up” on a wall. Pin-up girls may be glamour models, fashion models, or actresses.

The term pin-up may also refer to drawings, paintings, and other illustrations done in emulation of these photos (see the list of pin-up artists). For example, Pinups is a triannual artist’s publication playing on the historical centrefold practice of nudie magazines by making the centrefold the sole feature. There are no words—just an exaggeration of the classic centrefold. The magazine exists in book form but can be taken apart and tiled to reveal a 70″ x 32″ image. Pinups is created by Christopher Schulz and published in New York City.

The term pin-up is first attested to in English in 1941; however, the practice is documented back at least to the 1890s. Pin-up images could be cut out of magazines or newspapers, or be from postcard or chromo-lithographs, and so on. Such photos often appear on calendars, which are meant to be pinned up anyway. Later, posters of pin-up girls were mass-produced and became an instant hit.

In the late nineteenth century, burlesque performers and actresses used photographic advertisement as business cards to promote themselves. These adverts and business cards could often been found in green rooms (areas where theatrical performers not required on stage gather), pinned-up or stuck into the frames of the looking-glasses at music halls, in the joints of the gas-burners, and sometimes lying on-top of theatre cast-cases. Understanding the power of photographic advertisements to promote their shows, burlesque women self-constructed their identity to make themselves visible. Being recognized not only within the theatre itself but also outside challenged the conventions of women’s place and women’s potential in the public sphere.

According to historian Maria Elena Buszek: “To understand both the complicated identity and the subversive nature of the nineteenth-century actress, one must also understand that the era’s views on women’s potential were inextricably tied to their sexuality, which in turn was tied to their level of visibility in the public sphere: regardless of race, class or background, it was generally assumed that the more public the woman, the more “public,” or available, her sexuality,”

Being the subject of sexual fantasies, famous actresses in early 20th century film were both drawn and photographed and put on posters to be sold for personal entertainment. Among the celebrities who were considered sex symbols, one of the most popular early pin-up girls was Betty Grable, whose poster was ubiquitous in the lockers of G.I.s during World War II.

As sexual images of women multiplied in the popular culture, women participated actively in constructing arguments to endorse them as well as protest against them. Female supporters of early pin-up content considered these to be a positive post-Victorian rejection of bodily shame and showing a healthy respect for female beauty. Feminie protesters against pin-ups argued that these images corrupted societal morality and saw these public sexual displays of women as lowering the standards of womanhood, destroying their dignity and as harmful to both women and young adolescents.

In the early 20th century, these drawings of women helped define certain body images—such as being clean, being healthy, and being wholesome—and were enjoyed by both “normal” men and women; but as time progressed these images changed from respectable to illicit.


2 Comments on “Chus Martinez On The Pin-Up”

  1. Chus puts the Up in Pin Up. Toot toot!


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