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NC Photographer Uses Pinup Photos As A Way For Women To Appreciate Their Bodies

Actress and performer Betty Grable became one of the most popular pinup girls, and this shot of her is considered to be the iconic pinup of the era
Credit Wikipedia
Actress/performer Betty Grable became one of the most popular pinup girls, and this shot of her is considered to be the iconic pinup of the era.

Update: This piece was the recipient of a Gracie Award for Outstanding Talk Show in the public radio division. Here's the full press release.

Pinup photography gained popularity in the 1940s when glamorous photos of women were made into posters for soldiers to take to war. Painted versions of pinup girl images even appeared on the noses of military aircrafts. But the mass-produced pinups lost popularity throughout the last half-century.

Now, one North Carolina photographer, Iman Woods, is reviving the pinup technique.

Woods struggled with body image and weight issues throughout her life and discovered that photography transformed her perception of herself.

"Part of the reason I chose pinup is that it is synonymous with 'beautiful,'" she said.

Woods creates pinup-style portraits of other women with the goal of giving clients new ways of thinking about their bodies.

Christy Barton, a resident of Mebane, North Carolina, always loved vintage images of pinup girls, but she never thought that she would be one.

"I'm one of those people that crosses myself out of photos," Barton said. "I run and actually dodge the photos." But when Barton met Woods, things changed.

"I met her in a coffee shop one morning," Barton remembered. "And I sat down beside her and before even knowing what she did, I made a negative comment about my body."

Woods assured Barton she was beautiful and introduced her to the process Woods calls "pinup therapy." Barton was intrigued by the concept.

Christy Barton
Christy Barton

Pinup therapy involves a day of pampering and a photo shoot. Prior to the shoot, Woods works closely with her clients to understand their relationships with their bodies. Her goal is to create an experience free of negativity and self-criticism. Clients are prohibited from saying anything negative about their bodies during the shoot.

After learning about the process, Barton hesitated to participate because of her weight. 

"Well, maybe after I lose 40 or 50 pounds, I'll do it," she said. Woods encouraged Barton to embrace her body as it was at the time.The process gave Barton a renewed confidence in herself and her body.

"I saw myself, and I thought, 'I need to not worry about what other people think,'" she said. "It's all about what I think."

Angela Bobal, a 40-year-old mother of two children, also participated in the pinup therapy process. She credits much of her positive self-image to growing up in a family of strong women. Even so, she experienced self-doubt about her body which she attributes to the influence of media and advertising.

Bobal said viewing her own image, immediately after it was taken, helped her to appreciate her body. She realized, "the mirror can sometimes distort what you see."

Angela Bobal
Angela Bobal

Woods thrives on helping clients see their bodies in a new way. "It is just powerful to be in this positive space," Woods said. "And sometimes it is for the first time."

Woods opened a new studio in downtown Mebane, North Carolina earlier this week.

Watch the process of a pinup painting:

Learn more about the Pinup Therapy process:

Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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