BUNNY Yeager, who has died aged 85, was a model turned pin-up photographer who helped jump-start the career of then-unknown Bettie Page, who became famous in the 1950s for her pin-up shots. Yeager's work with Page and others also helped popularise the bikini.
Yeager was particularly famous for making everyday women, from stay-at-home mothers to airline attendants, feel comfortable enough to take most of their clothes off. Her photos of Page in a leopard-print bathing suit standing next to a real cheetah or putting baubles on a Christmas tree are still well-known today. "They all wanted to model for me because they knew that I wouldn't take advantage of them," Yeager once said. "And I wouldn't push them to do nude if they didn't want to do nudes. It wasn't a day when nude photography was prevalent."
Linnea Eleanor Yeager was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, and in the 1940s became one of the most photographed models in Miami during her early career. "I wanted to be famous," she said. "I wanted to be somebody. All the other models were wearing one-piece Jantzen and Catalina suits. I never felt awkward doing crazy poses because I knew they would get more space in the newspapers."
She later turned the camera on herself, posing in bathing suits she handmade for her 5ft 9in frame. Her self-portraits were turned into a book, How I Photograph Myself, in 1964.
She began taking photos of Page in 1954 as began her career behind the camera. She published about a dozen books and her work has been displayed in art galleries across the world. Besides the iconic Page photo, Yeager also shot stills of the Swedish actress Ursula Andress, who starred in the 1962 James Bond film Dr No in a white bikini, a knife sheathed at her side.
Yeager said she had few requests when several magazines began to struggle or went out of business over the last decade, but her career returned to the spotlight in 2010 when the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh held an exhibition of her work. There was also an exhibition in Miami in 2013.
"And I still get that little tingle when I see the photos on the wall," she said of the latter-day attention. In her studio, Yeager kept a stash of photos no one had seen. They will be included in a new book Yeager was finishing, scheduled for publication in September, celebrating the 60th anniversary of her first photo shoots with Page
"I'm still feeling like a little child and excited over everything new that comes along in my life," Yeager said last year. "I don't know where it will lead to yet, but it sounds good to me."
Her books included Bunny Yeager's Flirts of the Fifties (2007), Bunny Yeager's Bouffant Beauties (2009) and Bunny Yeager's Beautiful Backsides (2012).
She was pre-deceased by two husbands and is survived by two daughters.