Pin-Up Style: Esteban Palazuelos

This vintage-inspired pin-up photo series by Madrid-based photographer Esteban Palazuelos for GQ Spain brings back the classy Bettie Page-esque style of the 1950s, which we kind of miss sometimes. Our lives are so inundated with images of nude girls, some done quite tastefully and others not so much, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air to see pin-up done in a more sophisticated, elegant way. We loved the images so much that we interviewed the man behind the camera, and this is what he had to say (p.s. we also included a few of his fashion editorial pics at the bottom.) Have a look:


LF: We are in love with the vintage pin-up series you did for GQ Spain. How was this different from doing, say, a fashion editorial?
EP: This was a personal project I had in mind for some time and I had the opportunity to do it for GQ with some of the best young actresses of Spanish cinema. The main difference with a fashion shoot was that here we didn’t have to show clothes, just flesh and attitude, also I was very concerned about the comfort of the actresses, after all they were naked while I was shooting and they’re not models, but all of them loved the idea and got really into it.

LF: If you were to describe the “pin-up” style, what would it be?

EP: Wow, that’s a tough one. I think it has to be about naivety and curiosity. I mean the pure pin-up style – as found in the very early erotic photography – when the models showed themselves without the knowledge of the photographic media that we have nowadays and the photographers were exploring a brand new language. Next, pin-up photography became a vehicle for eroticism, faking that sexy innocence already lost by the normalization of photography.

LF: What camera did you use for the images? Digital vs. analog? 4X5?
EP: My idea was to do it as genuine as possible, even shooting with an old plate Kodak from a little collection of ancient cameras I have. I also intended to use 6X6 film with my analogic Hasselblad, which I did for the previous tests of this shoot, however for the work itself I used my Canon EOS 1. The deadlines didn’t allow me to shoot film. I’ll do it for myself when I find some time off.

LF: Are you formally trained in photography or self-taught?

EP: I studied a couple of years in non-official photography schools, but I really began to learn something about this business while working as assistant for professional photographers and shooting, shooting and shooting…

LF: You are Madrid-based, but have you spent time during your career in any other cities?

EP: Actually I established in Madrid 6 or 7 years ago, but before that I spent a few years wandering with my cameras and my guitar in places like New York, Paris, South of England, Marseille, Mauritania, Maroc….

LF: How is the market for fashion photographers in Madrid?

EP: There’s a market but you need to have a great background to get access, like in the rest of the world. The interest in fashion by young people is growing, and you notice that in the increase of blogs, online magazines, new designers, etc. So if you’re a beginner photographer in fashion, you have to take many chances to do your stuff even when usually there’s no budget involved….

LF: You are putting out incredible fashion editorials for some of the world’s biggest mags. Why fashion vs. some other genre in photography?
EP: Fashion photography allows me to develop my creativity in many ways, it’s the closest to art I can get in photography and I make my living off of it.

LF: You are really talented with light. What is your coolest lighting trick?

EP: I’m obsessed with natural light! In many of my productions we carry tons of strobes, generators and stuff, and in the end I use nothing but sunlight, filtered, bounced, direct… I really enjoy working in sunlit studios which I know well and know exactly how the light works at every hour of the day in the different seasons.

LF: How long have you been working as a professional photographer?
EP: I had begun to live off my images like ten years ago as a photojournalist, and there I saw very clearly what I didn’t want to do! After fighting during a photo call and getting a very poor picture of George Clooney, I knew I had had enough of that and headed my professional career to fashion and portrait photography.

LF: You said in your info that you are a sporadic musician. What do you play?

EP: I have been stuck to a guitar since age twelve and I’ve played from punk to death metal to funk or jazz. When I realized I couldn’t be a professional guitar player, I took my cameras and began to work as a photographer. Today it’s just an excuse to get together with some friends to play some gigs and make some noise.

LF: You also stated “photography is [your] natural choice of expression and way of life…” Why photography vs. another creative outlet. What does this medium mean to you?
EP: As I’ve said light is a constant in my life, my first memories are of light: the red skies at dawn, the lights of the city in contrast with music… I think that with my images I can offer something new and personal that nobody else creates.

LF: How FAST do you live?

EP: Just a few years ago my answer would’ve been radically different, but now it’s seeing my one year old daughter Lía growing up every day.

LF: Art Talk: What inspires you? Favorite art or work?
EP: I love cinema for its way to tell a story through light. A great influence is the work of Vittorio Storaro, Jordan Cronenweth and others directors of photography and almost all Stanley Kubrick films.

LF: Sex Talk: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?

EP: Beauty, whatever that is, in all forms, sometimes is a bottom belly, a girl riding a bike, a Coltrane solo, the connection you get sometimes with your model during a shoot, when I get lost in the viewfinder of my camera and I can only see through it and forget everything else, riding my Triumph on a twisted road…

LF: Travel Talk: Favorite destination or travel stories that you want to share?
EP: Hard to choose just one place… could be standing in a dune, deep into the Sahara, hundreds miles away from any other human or in the middle of Manhattan during rush hour… depends of my mood.

L’Agent Goodies…