Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2009

Our readers and critics pick their favorites.

(page 17 of 21)

Celeste Giuliano (Photo by Shane McCauley)

A Leg Up

By the time 1950s pinup queen Bettie Page died late last year at age 85, she’d spawned several books and the 2006 biographical movie The Notorious Bettie Page. The generous curves she displayed in photographs for public consumption signaled a G-rated vitality—even in a leopard-print bikini.

For women seeking to change their spots, if only for a few hours, Celeste Giuliano (Best Niche Photographer) offers an escape from the humdrum. Whether to stoke romantic embers, snare a Hollywood agent, or simply boost the ego, subjects pin their desires on a studio session that produces eye-popping results.

And everything is legal. Cheesecake, yes; cheesy, no. Her teasing but tasteful shots that range from burlesque to Betty Grable. Giuliano also creates screen sirens (Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake) and film noir ambiance thanks to stylized makeup, wardrobe and props.

Such classic poses are part of Giuliano’s artistic fiber and personal heritage. Her grandfather, a men’s fashion designer, apparently had more on his mind than cuffs and collars. “He loved all things vintage, and had a collection of pinup calendars on the wall of his office,” says the Havertown native and graduate of Notre Dame Academy in Villanova. “We used to draw together.”

If Giuliano inherited granddad’s eye for shape and style, the University of the Arts sharpened it. After completing a BFA in photography in 2001, she hired out as a newspaper photo editor and continued the freelance work she’d started years earlier. Her specialization in pinups happened rather by accident in 2003. Seeking to expand her portrait portfolio, Giuliano pitched a concept to the Preston & Steve Show (then on Y100, now at WMMR) and its “Philly’s Hottest” contest (moms, secretaries, waitresses, etc.). How about a pinup calendar of the winners?

“I needed models, and I thought this would be a great collaboration,” Giuliano says.

The calendar never made it to print, but Y100 posted Giuliano’s pictures online and publicized her work. She quickly learned that there were lots of local ladies pining to be pinups. A new generation of Bettie Pages beat a path to the Overbrook Farms studio space Giuliano shares with her illustrator husband, David Seidman. “I never imagined people would want to come in for that,” says Giuliano.

To boost their husbands’ morale, a few Army wives recently drove in from Reading and posed. One donned military-style outfits for her photo shoot on the eve of her first wedding anniversary. “I knew I wanted to do it for my husband,” says Cara Sharp, seven months after Sgt. Joel Sharp’s deployment to Iraq.

Her cancer in remission, Heather Rossi wanted to celebrate. With a little help from Giuliano, she transformed herself from patient to pinup. “I needed a day without doctors poking me,” says the New Jersey resident.

Giuliano’s photos may capture a kind of lighthearted allure, their potency shouldn’t be underestimated. “One guy ordered up a session [for his girlfriend], and proposed to her right then and there,” says Giuliano.

Testimony to the power of the pinup.

—Jim Waltzer

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