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What's with the name?

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Allow Us To Explain

Classic Pin Up Photoshop Isn’t Really Photoshop; Still A Neat Look at Older Idea of Beauty

A set of classic pin up paintings paired with the reference photos that were used to create them has been making the rounds today, usually billed as The Original Photoshop or some such. However, as astute Redditor Barnago points out, there’s a difference between a pin up and a photoshoot:

These are not portraits, or figure studies. The illustrator’s intention is not to faithfully represent the girls and touch them up a bit. His job is to create a fictional, visually appealing, sexy character set within a little vignette. To that end, these photographs are merely tools to help inform the technical process and lend it credulity in the places where the artist’s ability to construct convincingly from imagination are not sufficient.

The point is, it is sort of backwards to say that these are the result of an artist heavily modifying the model, in order to arrive at the idealized pinup. The idealized pinup is actually the starting point.

That said, it’s still interesting to note not only the changes between our modern equivalent of the pin up (there’s a debate to be had there, but we’re going to say… advertising) and the classic pin up; but also the changes between the women in the original photos and the women in the paintings.

I mean, obviously we’re almost always looking at a lot less skin and quite a bit more garter belts.

Styleite points out that feet seem to get smaller quite often:

And The Hairpin notes that there’s nary a duckface to be seen…

Ladies and gentlemen, always wear long pants under your chaps. There’s a reason why they’re called chaps. Man, I miss horseback riding.

We found this gallery initially on Reddit, but Buzzfeed seems to have the most complete collection.


  • Jennifer Doveton

    yeah I don’t see much distinction between these and our photoshopped covergirls, page 3 girls and fashion models. In both cases, the creators defend their art by claiming that ‘everyone realises it’s a fiction or an illusion’, hiding behind the idea that it’s all benign camp and fun… but at the same time they still set an imaginary standard with this fantasy imagery which real women are measured against inevitably because of their prevalence in all the imagery we consume. So, same diff, different lingerie.

  • Kimberly Farley

    “there’s nary a duckface to be seen…”
    Am I crazy, or is this statement… not quite right?

    Using the Buzzfeed numbering (based off of the photos, not the paintings):
    Numbers 3, 4, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20.

    Or is there a subtle difference between pucker and “duckface” that I’m missing?

  • Anonymous

    Holy cow, I didn’t realise what I had been missing when I looked at the photographs and thought “Hey…there’s my stomach…and she’s got the same legs as me…” It’s actually shocking to me to see women with the same body type as myself in these sorts of images. And I’m white. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like if you were not white or possessed other characteristics that are grossly underrepresented in the media. I’m very media literate and I still have this gut reaction…goes to show how pervasive it is.

  • Anonymous

    Can we all agree that the women in the illustrations have some demonic looking faces? Freaking me out, man.

  • Anonymous

    You need to upgrade your media. Pick up King instead of Cosmo.

  • Rori

    I don’t get the big deal. It’s cool to see the reference photos, but… Maybe it seems less-than-oh-wow because I’m an illustrator/cartoonist and it’s really common to use reference photos of anyone one can find to help nail a difficult pose, or a very specific situation. It seems like that’s more what this is, these illustrations, to my knowledge, aren’t supposed to be the women in the photos, but some concept the artist starts with and needs reference for (as is stated early in the article).

    If these were say, portraits of someone like Betty Grable and showed the same editing, then I could see more of a relationship with photoshop.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Exactly my thoughts. You can see some of the same stuff going on in Rockwell’s art when he changes it from the references. The characters aren’t supposed to be real people, they’re cartoony archetypes. Most of the changes I see in the paintings have to do with making the silhouette clearer and the gestures more exaggerated–design principles that take into account the whole image, not “corrections” to the woman’s figure.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I disagree. There’s a HUGE difference in the ostensible reality of a touched-up photo and the established fantasy of a painting. You can never tell which parts of a photo were changed (unless it’s a bad job or you’re a freaking pro), while by definition a painting is completely “fake.” The psychological impact of seeing a “real” person that represents an ideal is way more powerful and insidious than a painting, although I of course agree that they both influence the viewer’s expectations.