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Glamour photography is a genre of photography whereby the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in a romantic or sexually alluring way. The subjects may be fully clothed or semi-nude, but glamour photography stops short of deliberately arousing the viewer and being pornographic photography.
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.
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While there is some overlap in the time periods, the term glamour photography did not begin to be commonly applied to such photography until the 1960s. Before then, the term erotic photography was more commonly used. Early types of this kind of modeling were 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.
Standards of glamour photography have changed over time, reflecting changes in social acceptance. 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. During World War II pin-up pictures of scantily clad movie stars were extremely popular among US servicemen. However, until the 1950s, the use of glamour photography in advertising or men’s magazines was highly controversial or even illegal. Magazines featuring glamour photography were sometimes marketed as "art magazines" or "health magazines".
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.
Playboy was instrumental in changing the world of glamour photography as the first magazine which focused on nude models and was targeted at the mainstream consumer. In December 1953, Hugh Hefner published the first edition of Playboy with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, and nude photos of Monroe inside. Monroe's star status and charming personality helped to diminish the public outcry. When asked what she had on during the photoshoot, she replied "the radio". After Playboy broke through, many other magazines followed and this was instrumental in opening the market for the introduction of glamour photography into modern society.
Recently in order to increase profits by expanding possible sale locations, several popular glamour magazines (known as lad mags) are modifying the trend. They revert to styles of glamour photography of years ago by showing less nudity, in favor of implied (covered) nudity or toplessness, such as the handbra technique, where a woman hides her nipples and areolae by covering both breasts with her own hands, or those of another person. Examples include FHM (For Him Magazine) and Maxim magazines, which launched in 1994 and 1995, respectively.