by Bill Hedrick
At first, it sounds like something right out of an old WWII movie… a crew of men on a submarine in the Pacific, posters of their favorite pinup girls taped to the wall of their crowded crew quarters… but a Lubbock photographer has given the pinup girl a modern twist, with a little Norman Rockwell mixed in.
Cory Sinklier graduated from Texas Tech in 1996 with a degree in journalism when some other professional photographers in the area urged him to open his own studio. “I never intended to be a portrait photographer. I was more interested in commercial work. However, I found myself photographing weddings which led to photographing children and families. Soon, the front room of our home was a studio,” Cory explains.
By 2003, his wife, Jill, quit her teaching job and the couple moved the studio to a storefront location. Two years later, they had seven employees. At a weekly staff meeting, they were discussing what to do for a Valentine’s Day promotion when Jill came up with the idea of doing something to help women feel beautiful, special, and good about themselves. “I mentioned how I had always been a fan of the pinup portraits of the 40’s and 50’s and the staff went crazy for the idea,” says Cory.
After a bit of brainstorming, the all-women staff suggested bringing a makeup artist and hairdresser onboard and make a package deal out of it. “We set up a day where we did a practice run with our female staff, each taking turns as models, and the results were better than we expected.” At the time, they had no idea that this Valentine Special would become a specialty for the studio for years to come.
Pinup portrait clients are typically women who are about to get married and want to do a session as a wedding gift for their husbands, or women who are already married, giving it as an anniversary, birthday, or Christmas gift. “We’ve had wives of overseas personnel come in and have a pinup portrait done to send to their husbands,” he adds.
You can see a hint of Norman Rockwell in many of Cory’s images but his main inspiration comes from Gil Elvgren. “Elvgren was always my favorite,” explains Cory, “I bought a book of his work and studied his style, borrowed his ideas as a basis for my own work, and practiced using Painter until I could make my photographs look like his paintings. Elvgren’s pinup work mimicked the story-telling nature of Rockwell’s work, and has an innocent sexuality.”
Most of Cory’s pinup clients are adult women wanting to do something a bit daring or flirty. “I still like to keep it tasteful enough that they would not be embarrassed for others to see it. We have pinup clients who come from all walks of life and from every income bracket,” he adds. “We try to target women who want to see themselves as beautiful. I think all women need to feel beautiful.”
Early in the promotion, Cory and his staff noticed that, as with many things, this was something that women liked to do in groups. “Even when a woman schedules a session for herself, rarely does she show up alone. She almost always brings a friend or brings her mother. Then, it dawned on us that, just as women like to go to Mary Kay parties or Pampered Chef parties, they might have a blast getting together with their friends for a Pinup Party.” It was a brilliant idea and made the entire experience something to remember. It was also great advertisement for Cory’s new line of services.
It starts with a pre-session consultation when clients come to the studio to view samples of Cory’s pinup portraits. “First, we establish if they are looking for the classic pinup style or something a bit more modern.
Next, they browse through the closet for outfits we’ve collected over the years to get an idea of what they want to do,” he explains. Cory has even learned to do a bit of sewing himself. Finally, the client is given some information to take home about the pinup products so they can finalize what they want to do.
Today, pinup portraits represent about 20% or more of Cory’s business. Besides being a lot of fun and being an outlet for his creative talent, he and his staff have another goal in mind for this service. “Our goal is really two-fold,” he explains. “Because I love the storytelling nature of pinup photography, this style of photography allows me to easily tell a story. Therefore, I get a sense of fulfillment as an artist after a successful pinup session.
Secondly, my wife and I have always seen this as a way to help women feel better about themselves. I believe all women are beautiful, although some of them aren’t convinced of it. I like to get them in front of a camera so they can see just how beautiful they are. But, as an added bonus, we feel that we help strengthen marriages. I was worried how husbands would react to a male photographing their wives, but I’ve received nothing but compliments from the husbands of women I’ve worked with. Quite often, men will send their wives back to do it all again.”
Like most people who are professional photographers today, Cory Sinklier opened a studio because he loved photography and wanted an outlet for his creativity. Then, after a few years of producing photographs and focusing on the money aspect, he found himself in a rut. But it was his creative nature that brought him out of that rut and made him realize
that there is more to this business than simply making a living taking pictures.
His pinup promotions have been a rewarding part of his business and has allowed him to do some other things with his talents. “Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to work with other photographers and charities in my area to photograph families for free. The more I’ve been able to give of my time and talent, the more rewarded I’ve felt,” he says.
Success is usually a matter of diligence and perseverance. Cory Sinklier is living proof that photography is what you make of it