The common misconception is that nothing “real” ever happens on social networking sites like Facebook. People make “friends” who they never see and “like” things or causes they don’t actually participate in. However, for Carol Ann Zuk and John Gladman, nothing could be further from the truth.
The two old Ottawa High School friends reconnected via Facebook, and soon after started up Bombshell Pin Ups, a photography company specializing in shooting images that turn everyday women into the elegant starlets of vintage Hollywood.
“Our motto and goal is to take a woman, make her look a little more glamorous, take it up a notch,” Zuk says. “We do flattering poses, flattering camera angles, but we don’t Photoshop and make her really tiny. The girls look at themselves and they can still recognize themselves and how great they look.”
Currently, Zuk handles the initial consultations and sets up the photo shoots, while Gladman applies his artistic knowledge and skill to the photos, using computer programs to add in layers of makeup and other effects, all of which are designed to heighten the allure of the pictures. The end result ends up looking like a pin-up poster from the 1940s and ’50s.
“I can use things that emulate pencils, water colors — I do the make-up on the skin tones,” Gladman says. “I use heavier oils on the hair so it has a heavier texture to it. I just keep working the image over like that. They take between two-five hours on each one. I’m burning some midnight oil with the volume we get.”
Gladman says since its founding in May 2010, Bombshell’s popularity has skyrocketed, growing so quickly the business recently relocated to another site.
“We’ve outgrown the place here in North Lawrence now. We’ve signed a lease and we’ll be moving across the street. I’m thrilled to have found a niche, and it seems to be working. We’ve rolled up over 9,000 Facebook fans, which makes us, as far as I can tell, the most popular pin-up photography business on Facebook. We were getting 65,000 hits a day before Christmas. It just boggles the mind.”
Zuk says the shoot is for any woman, of any age group, but she especially identifies with women over 30 years of age.
“I like tailoring it to older women, because they’re kinda lost in the shuffle. You’re over at the age of 30 in modeling. It’s nice to catch girls when they’re young, too, because that’s when the self-image things start. Women do a lot for their children and ignore themselves, so this is something nice for them.”
Zuk believes popular media is pushing a body image that is impossible for some women to attain and can actually be harmful. She says her Bombshell Pin Ups can help women feel comfortable in their own skin again.
“I think there’s a lot expected from women,” she says. “You’re supposed to be perfect, work outside the home, be a great mother, and be sexy. There’s a lot of pressure. I don’t know why, but I grew up and didn’t like myself much. I felt like my body was never quite good enough. I don’t know why — it’s just pressure. We shouldn’t be told what to look like; variety is what makes the world go round. It’s what makes it all interesting.”
Amelia Wilson, a patron of Bombshell Pin Ups, agrees with Carol’s assessment and says her photo shoot has helped her sense of self-worth. She says she’s more confident in who she is since her photo shoot in May 2010.
“I think women are looking for some validation in who they are and they don’t always get it,” she says. “I think women want to feel better about themselves. They see how these women look (on Bombshell’s Facebook page). Not all of these women are a size two, or skinny — they’re real women. Seeing women as real makes other women want to get it done.”
Wilson says the photo shoot can help remind women that they can be glamorous, something that can be lost in the day-to-day grind of life. She says she has recommended the experience to many of her friends and family.
“Women, in general, don’t realize how beautiful they are. When they see a photo like this they can take a step back and say, ‘Oh, wow, I am pretty.’ I remember driving away that day and feeling so excited and overwhelmed with how awesome it is. Carol Ann and John help you feel really comfortable. It was a really good time, it makes you feel kind of special.”