Glamour photography

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Michele Merkin in a semi-nude glamour shoot

Glamour photography is a genre of photography in which the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in a sexually alluring manner. The subject may be fully clothed or semi-nude, but glamour photography stops short of intentionally sexually arousing the viewer and being pornographic.[citation needed]

Glamour photography is generally a composed image of a subject in a still position. The subjects of glamour photography are often professional models, and the photographs are normally intended for commercial use, including mass-produced calendars, pinups and for men's magazines, such as Playboy; but amateur subjects are also sometimes used, and sometimes the photographs are intended for private and personal use only. Photographers use a combination of cosmetics, lighting and airbrushing techniques to produce an appealing image of the subject.[1][2]

Early history[edit]

Before about the 1960s, glamour photography was commonly referred to as erotic photography. Early erotic photography was often associated with "French postcards", small postcard sized images, that were sold by street vendors in France. In the early 1900s the pinup became popular and depicted scantily dressed women often in a playful pose seemingly surprised or startled by the viewer. The subject would usually have an expression of delight which seemed to invite the viewer to come and play. Betty Grable was one of the most famous pinup models of all time; her pinup in a bathing suit was extremely popular with World War II soldiers.

In December 1953, Marilyn Monroe was featured in the first issue of Playboy magazine. Bettie Page was the Playmate of the Month in January 1955. Playboy was the first magazine featuring nude glamour photography targeted at the mainstream consumer.

The British Queen of Curves in the 1950s and early sixties was Pamela Green. Harrison Marks, on the encouragement of Green, took up glamour photography and together in 1957 they published the pinup magazine Kamera. Currently in England the earliest use of the word "glamour" as a euphemism for nude modeling or photography is attributed to Marks' publicity material in 1950s.

Glamour models popular in the early 1990s included Hope Talmons and Dita Von Teese and the modern era is represented in the U.S. by models like Heidi Van Horne and Bernie Dexter, while the UK's leading representative of the genre is Lucy Pinder.

Magazines and movie stars[edit]

Standards and styles of glamour photography change over time, reflecting for example changes in social acceptance and taste. In the early 1920s, United States photographers like Ruth Harriet Louise and George Hurrell photographed celebrities to glamorize their stature by utilizing lighting techniques to develop dramatic effects.[3]

During World War II pin-up pictures of scantily clad movie stars were extremely popular among American servicemen. However, until the 1950s, glamour photography in advertising and in men’s magazines was highly controversial or even illegal. In some countries, if not illegal, such magazines could not be on public display, and some had to be displayed in a plastic cover. Magazines featuring glamour photography were sometimes marketed as "art magazines" or "health magazines".

Popular portraiture[edit]

Glamour portrait by Jean-Christophe Destailleur, 2011

Since the 1990s glamour photography has increased in popularity among the public. Glamour portrait studios opened, offering professional hair and makeup artists and professional retouching to allow the general public to have the "model" experience. These sometimes include "boudoir" portraits but are more commonly used by professionals and high school seniors who want to look "their best" for their portraits.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas," Mike "Glamour shots take writer from bland to Bond" Toronto Star, Sec. B. pg. J.3, May 12, 1994 (as cited by ProQuest)
  2. ^ Peterson," Maggie Wolff "The glamour side of photography" North Valley Business Journal, Vol.5, Issue. 11; Sec. 1. pg. 1, September 1994. (as cited by ProQuest)
  3. ^ Mick" LaSalle "Lights Up on Hollywood's Hurrell / Special focuses on the inventor of the glamour-shot style" San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 1995