We recently sat down with Krzystyna Caldarone, pin-up photographer and founder of Boston based Vintage Girl Studios to talk creativity, Bunny Yeager, vetting your shooter, self-employment, and Tess Holiday.
Q: A professional portrait photographer for 16 years, you made the shift to shooting almost exclusively pin-up in 2010, with the founding of Vintage Girl Studios . What sparked the change in focus and drew you to pin-up? Tell us about your first pin-up shoot.
In 2008, I was working with a stylist on an unrelated project and she suggested that we try a pin- up shoot. At the time I was really feeling burned out of my business as a traditional wedding and portrait photographer. I was also missing the social outlet that my early professional work with bands and music venues had provided. Pin-up delivered a whole new life for me personally and professionally. It tied everything I had loved together: antiques, love of vintage clothing, rock-n-roll, sensually, and creativity.
My first pin-up session was a truly amazing and fun experience. It was with three very different women. I remember that first editing session and I LOVED everything I shot. Bookings followed that fall. The clients were having so much fun had never done anything like this before. I was hooked. It took about two years for my vision to come together and in April 1st, 2010 Vintage Girl Studios was born.
Q: Pin-up is a style that is pushing a century old now, and all of us in the genre look to the past for inspiration. When literally, “it all has been done before” how to create your own unique style within pin-up and fulfill your creative needs?
One great thing about the genre is that vintage research is a rabbit hole of information. There are so many styles to be inspired from that I can mix my shooting style from old Hollywood glamour, to the 1920s Ziegfeld Follies, Patriotic Pin-Up, Hotrod, and so many other styles. There is so much inspiration in the rich tradition that it pushes me to maintain a high standard.
Q: You describe pin-up as “empowering”. Many times this term in our industry is a red herring. How do you feel pin-up empowers women?
“Objectification vs Celebration” depends on perspective. I try to help each of my clients realize her vision and push her personal envelope. That could range from simply achieving comfort in front of a camera for the first time to creating a crazy, experimental vintage concept. It is my job to insure they have the best experience with their shoot and to capture images that they love. I want them all to be glowing when they leave the studio thinking and feeling they have done something wonderful for themselves. My work is tailored each client’s personal vision, not any preconceived notion of “beauty” or some external expectation.
Q: Many years back we created a list of Pinup Modeling Tips and Tricks . What would you add? What are some of your favorite tricks you’ve learned over the years?
I always encourage consultations at the studio and forming a game plan for each session. I am there to guide them, cheer, and coach them through the process, particularly when someone is stepping out of her comfort zone. So, my tip is to always to have a consultation before your session to establish the relationship and trust. From a practical point of view, it is also important if the photographer is providing wardrobe so you can try on clothing to make sure everything fits well and works. I also enjoy reviewing the images with my clients in person. I love my clients and participating in their excitement is very fulfilling to me.
Q: For those who don’t live near Boston and are looking for a good pin-up photographer, what should the vetting process look like? What questions should potential clients/models ask of their photographer?
First I would ask, “Who will be at my session?” Sometimes stylists work in teams, which can be intimidating. I prefer that my stylist does both hair and makeup to keep numbers down in the studio. This way each client has the stylist’s complete attention and there are no annoying side conversations and distractions.
Also, I only want one client in the studio at a time. All people are different and the nervous mom watching the Bettie Page dom shoot happening can be very intimidating. By having one client in the studio also open up having the friend, the boyfriend, or moms come.
Basically, you want your session focused on you which is achieved by creating a comfortable environment with no external distractions.
When I started researching photographers in 2008 I found to Bunny Yeager’s Site. After reading about her I realized that I could be doing this style of photography as a career. I ordered her books and had an email correspondence with her about her books. She handled all her orders personally and signed all my books. I keep her business card in a place of honor in the studio. Unfortunately, she died last year but her legacy lives on in her photographs.
I just finished a book about Ruth Harriet Louise. She was the chief portrait photographer for MGM 1925-1929. This book described her process, her career, and describes to her frustration as being a woman in a male dominated field. Her subjects included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and many other stars at the end of the silent era.
I’m also a big fan of Editta Sherman “Duchess of Carnegie Hall”. She really lived an amazing life in an amazing studio.
A modern glamour photographer that I love is Sue Bryce. I love hearing her speak. Even though her style is very modern and different from mine, I have the greatest respect for her approach.
Q: What Is your advice for aspiring small business owners? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of entrepreneurship?
Running your own business is like waves. The highs are amazing-like being spotlighted by Pin Curl Magazine, or clients crying because they have never seen themselves so beautiful in an image. The lows are horrible – like having to reschedule two months of sessions due to illness and weather or investing so much emotionally and not getting the return financially at times.
To keep sanity, remember that during the lows there will be highs again, and that during the highs there will be lows – so try to stay humble.
Least favorite are the LOWS.
Q: Finally, who (living or dead) would you most like to shoot and why?
There are many people that I would love to work with. I’d really love to photograph Laura Byrnes. I think she is an amazing, talented, and smart businesswoman and photographer.
I would also love to work with Doris Mayday. I have enjoyed watching her career evolve. I feel over the past seven years I have followed her in magazines and social media she has matured and blossomed into a classic starlet.
But, Most of all I would Love to work with Tess Holiday. I find her to be an inspiration to so many people for her #Effyourbeautystandards campaign. She is stunning and I would be honored to photograph such a confident and beautiful woman.