What You Need To Know About Pinup Nude Photos!
4” x 5” Photos of Naked Women Were The First Type of Serialized Pornography in the USA!
During the 1950’s one of the most prominent forms of porn in the United States were 4”x 5” inch pinup nude photographs of women. Though they actually showed little in the form of nudity, for all practical purposes these photos and the models depicted in them were among the earliest forms of serialized American pornography.
History of 4” x 5” Nude Pinup
Like most things in American porn, 4x5 nude pinup photos had there beginning in the most American of institutions, The Mafia. During the 1900’s when photographic technology was still in it’s infancy, it quickly became apparent that people would pay money for nude models engaged in sex. However because of strict obscenity laws during the Prohibition era these types of photos could not be openly sold. As with all contraband it did not take long before elements of organized crime discovered ways to profit from them. After all they already controlled prostitution rings and burlesque establishments (strip clubs) so making the leap into producing porn was not a hard task.
Long before Anthony Peraino, put up the money to produce Deep Throat in 1972, he and his cohorts in the Colombo crime family were getting filthy rich running hardcore nude photos starting in the late 1920’s onwards.
The images that were produced were typically very crude with poor lighting, no context and generally very little eye appeal. Basically all you would get in a photo would be 2-3 people posing in crude sexual positions. Many times you could not even see there face. The purposes of these photos appeared to be more into shocking the viewer than satisfying an inquisitive mind full of lust. They were typically about 2” x 3” inches in size. Basically they were large enough so that people could see what they wanted and small enough to slip into your pocket if anyone was snooping. Though they were illegal at the time, demand for such photos was high among the general public.
It did not take long for the mainstream media to begin to join the bandwagon. Advertisers began to understand that combining sex and advertisement was a formula for success. During the latter half of the 1920’s a particular form of advertisement began to appear. These ads displayed a woman in sexy attire promoting a product. They displayed realistic artistic renditions of beautiful women rather than actual photos and hence could be considered art and get around strict obscenity standards.
In the late 1930’s Hollywood joined the fray. However instead of being satisfied with hand drawn images of beautiful women, film studio’s went a step further by releasing sexy photographs of there star actresses in promotional material. Unlike, the earlier drawings, photographs opened a new set of possibilities. For one, viewers could stare at something that actually looked like it was real life! Also the female models were identified – so a name could be put to the face. By the time America entered the Second World War, Americans norms were already loosening and pin-up art was in it’s infancy.
Post War Era & Nude Pin-Ups
After American soldiers returned from the battlefields of Europe at the end of World War II, the pin-up art form was already a staple of American culture. You could see them displayed on everything from the nose of airplane bombers to the cover of comic magazines. It seemed like every where you turned there was a sexy woman in a risque pose touting a naughty smile right back at you.
Early on in the 1940’s, a cottage industry began to form when a few daring photographers began to venture outside the accepted boundaries of the art form and to introduce nudity. Some were already distributors of main stream media, such as Irving Klaw who sold G rated Hollywood pin-ups to the public through mail order. Others were independent photographers and photo journalists such as Roy Kemp who had spent a considerable amount of time photographing burlesque dancers. These men and the others who would follow them, such as Andre De Dienes and Harrison Marks realized that the public had a near inexhaustible appetite for actual nude photography (sic. pornography) and would pay handsomely to get there hands on it. As these early pioneers began to succeed others quickly followed.
All that had to be done was that it had to be marketed in the right way. A few unwritten rules of the trade quickly developed. First the photos could not be too graphic otherwise anyone in possession of them face serious legal troubles. Therefore the images only have minimal nudity – breasts and backsides were allowed but anything further was strictly forbidden. Second, the photos had to have eye appeal. The smut sold by the mob in the past never caught on because the images displayed were of such poor quality. This next generation of nude porn photos would feature some of the finest photography of the era. Finally, unlike the prostitutes and unbranded photos of the past, these nude photos actually had the name of many of the models. This is because early on photographers of nude pin-ups realized that some models commanded greater interest by the public than others. Temptest Star and Bettie Paige were early stars. So was Anne Austin. Someone who preferred blondes would be a fan of Virginia Bell. Also by identifying the models distributors were able to determine which models garnered the greatest interest and hence the higher prices.
By the 1950’s the trade in this type of porn had become so popular that everyone was in on it. The production of porn was no longer dictated by the photographers. They had been joined by a plethora of strip club owners, agents as well the actual models themselves! All had begun to produce, distribute and sell these photos.
During this time standardization also occurred. No longer wee the photos of odd sizes. Uniformity occurred. The photos were all printed on the same type economical photographic paper. They were packaged in velum paper and distributed to bookstores, newsstands and convenience stores. They came in packets of 12, 24, and 36 images in a set. Most sets would have a single woman in clothing and she would undress with each additional photo until she was completely naked. Others would have more than one female model as they undressed.
Buyers were never allowed to see the actual photographs. Instead they would be shown a 2-4 page catalog that showed a single photo of every woman model set available. Next to the models photo would be her name and buyers would make the selection. Then once they had decided the clerk would slip them the packet of photos of the model they had chosen.
It’s hard to say with any certainly the number of nude pinups that were manufactured during this time. But the numbers had to have been in the tens of millions of photographs! According to the Kefauver Hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1957, photographer Irving Klaw alone was responsible for manufacturing millions of photographs and he dealt in only in niche fetish pics. When you consider that practically every corner store, newsstand and magazine bookstore in the US sold these these photos for almost two decades it becomes clear how popular they were.