I’ve always been a fan of the famous Pin-Up artist George Petty’s work since I first started researching Pin-Up art for Pin-Up photoshoots many years ago. The Petty Girl captures what I believe to be the perfect and most defined definition of what a PinUp should be: classy, innocent, never fully revealing, teasing, loveable, cute, playful, smiling, and many more traits that capture the ‘ideal’ women men had in their minds of that classic time. While the poses were often unrealistic to a degree, the exaggerations of the Petty Girl figure and features have a classic sense of beauty and perfection that lasts even to today. There are no tattoos on the Petty Girl, no lip rings or piercings that I've ever been able to find, nothing too over the top or crossing the barrier of innocent to erotic, just a simple gal often on the phone in a moment captured in her life. The Petty Girl became the ideal model for how I wanted to shoot Pin-Ups, trying to capture that style through Pin-UP photography keeping the Petty Girl traits always in mind. While the Pin-Ups of today very much differ from this style and cross into the more punk/emo playboy style, I prefer the more conservative modest style that George Petty presents in his gals. To me, that’s what a Pin-Up is all about, bringing out the classic vision of an American woman in the 1940s while not degrading or destroying the female form. It's a celebration of the female form, and a symbol of classic beauty. You’ll find no super skinny modern-supermodel style women that promote an unhealthy ideal in Petty’s art, but instead you’ll find a down to earth gal you’d love to know and might have even been that really beautiful gal next door. Granted, the Pin-Up in definition is geared towards the appeal of men, but done correctly and properly it can appeal to anyone. Trying to bring this style in the Pin-Up photoshoots I do, I find that it generates a much more fun wholesome photo that has a classic retro look on it’s own and a sex appeal that shows without having a model completely revealing herself. While this was my foundation to start on for all Pin-Up shoots, I still wanted to do something that would not only honor George Petty and bring awareness to his wonderful work, but also have my own stamp attached to it.
The Petty Project was an idea I had a few years ago, when I saw a photo in a photography magazine where they had taken a model and tried to perfectly replicate a classic Pin-Up shot by Alberto Vargas through a photograph. Using make-shift methods and camera angle tricks to mask the fact that they were 'faking' the clothing because tracking down an outfit of that looked like the Vargas print was near impossible, they were able to create a very close recreation of the original shot, almost perfect. This inspired me to try something I’d never done before, mimic a piece of art as perfectly as possible through a photo. It was then I came up with the Petty Project, where I wanted to recreate as many of George Petty’s works as I could through Photography... and try to do it without spending a fortune on recreating clothing and props. Going into it, I knew a lot of post-work would need to be done to get that perfect look which would require a lot of Adobe Photoshop editing. Because the Petty Girls often were in impossible poses and in incredibly elaborate outfits at time, I would need to use Photoshop to get the image I'd take in the studio the rest of the way there to the final result. But as I thought about it even more, I decided that I wanted to have that airbrushed look that captures Petty's works to complete a true recreation from start to finish. The difference would be in that it started from a photograph in a studio with different models and would all be done digitally.
I started the Petty Project in late 2009 and just a few months later had shot with four models doing over 15 different Petty works and many other models lined up to continue with a handful more each shoot. The process is by no means quick requiring up to two-three days worth of on and off work in Photoshop to get that perfect final airbrushed look and fixing the outfits along and impossible poses. And while I could go as far as to make them exact replications, I decided to make them all slightly different in some way to keep their unique look and set them apart from Petty’s original work. It’s a process I expect to last many years as Petty’s work is quite expansive. I’ll be focusing mostly on his late 1930s – late 1950s works, recreating as many as possible over time with many different models. It’s a lot of fun for myself and the models to recreate these famous works of art in this way, though rather challenging when these artistic exaggerations are attempted in real life… meaning some of these gals basically have to be near contortionists in order to achieve even close to the poses Petty painted. But that’s the beauty of art, being able to escape the boundaries and limitations of the real world, which is where Photography and Photoshop must cross paths on this project.
This website was the next step, to chronicle the project as I finish the recreations, and to get the word out about Petty and the Project itself. A lot of people ask me, aside from this website, what will become of the recreations? Will I be doing anything with the shots afterwards? There's a lot of ideas on the table that I've discussed with the models about what we can do with the shots. Everything from yearly calendars published (including for troops overseas) to possibly a book later on about the whole project and the best recreations. I'm always open for new ideas on where this project can go. If you're interested in being a part of the Petty Project in some way, be it make-up, hair, or even a model for some of the Petty Girl works, please contact me here and we'll talk! You can also find me on Facebook. The only stipulation is that you must either live or be able to travel to the Orange County area of Southern California.