Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Revealing Images: Barracuda Magazine

In Revealing Images, photographer Don Spiro dishes up sweet photographic treats and the stories behind them. Today, Don aims his lens at Barracuda Magazine.

I had been involved with the retro-pin up revival in Southern California in the mid-nineties, and one of the promoters at the forefront was Barracuda Magazine. Published by a college friend of mine who was heavily influenced by vintage magazines and who had a thing for doing-it-yourself, Barracuda was filled with informative articles, editorials, and (best of all) astounding examples of modern pin ups. There were few models in those days who specialized in pin up. Barracuda had to enlist women in the local rockabilly and burlesque scenes and their friends to pose as pin up models, thereby doing a lot to create the subculture that is so popular today.

One of the regular feature photographers was Paget Brewster, whose sensibilities and artistic style perfectly complemented those of the magazine and went a long way to defining the look of modern pin up. When Barracuda decided to profile her within the magazine they asked me to shoot both the layout and the cover.

I’ve always admired Paget, she is passionate about and excels at anything she sets her mind to do. She is as beautiful as any model she has shot, a kind of modern mix of Bunny Yeager and Lee Miller (two of my favorite photographers). An actress by profession, I am sure she could have a successful career as a professional photographer if she chose. But wait … there’s more!

The feature article would be the history of the original Batmobile from the 1960s TV series. As luck would have it, I live nearby Barris Kustom Industries where the Batmobile was created and is still displayed. George Barris created three replicas from Ford Galaxies for stunts and promotion, but the article was about the original, which Barris had built in three weeks from the 1954 Lincoln Futura concept car. The cover shot would feature Paget in a leopard two piece bathing suit in front of the actual, original Batmobile.

Since the image needed to be digitized to combine it with text and graphics, and I was still shooting film at this point, I borrowed Paget’s Fuji S camera with Nikon lens. The shoot was determined by our location: the crew at Barris drove the car into their parking lot and we based our angles on that. Barracuda’s editor, Jeff Fox, was on hand to direct the shoot, and I stood on a ladder above the left corner of the car, looking down as Paget posed for the lens.

I held the camera vertically to get all of Paget and the car in the frame. Since this was for the cover, Jeff made sure that I framed the composition to let room for the masthead, UPC symbol, and other text that he would within the finished work. Many people don’t realize that these are all elements that must be taken into consideration when shooting for a magazine: the final art is not the photo alone, it is a combination of graphic elements that must coexist in harmony and must be taken into account even before one frame is shot. The background, the Barris lot, would be replaced, but the lens choice, exposure, framing and composition had to be perfect to work as a cover image.

Fortunately, the weather was agreeable that day and the sun was in our favor. Paget, of course, was a natural model and every pose she did was in perfect pin up form. With a model like her in the set that we had it would have been hard not to have a fun shoot, our only distraction being the fact that we were all working with history (besides the Batmobile the Monsters Mobile, Drag-ula, and KITT were all nearby).

If you want to believe we treated the Batmobile like of a museum piece, giving it the respect due to an icon of American pop culture that is the most famous car in the entire world, stop reading. If you’re wondering if we took awed turns sitting in the driver’s seat, hesitant to touch anything in case we would cause a seat to eject or an oil slick to spray, well hell yes. Did I call one of my friends to say “Guess what, I’m calling you from the driver’s seat of the Batmobile?” Sure did. And yes, I sat in Robin’s seat, too.

~Don Spiro


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