Dec. 17--Snap-on Tools customers clamored for old-school calendars with women holding power tools, and Memphis franchisee Marvin Eberle was happy to oblige.
His 2013 calendar featured wife April Eberle and other models in classic cheesecake poses with blue-collar repair shop themes.
Lindsay Wolfe envisioned a special 40th birthday present for husband Eric Wolfe, a big fan of the rockabilly era. The result was a pinup portrait harking back to the art form's heyday in the 1940s and 1950s -- sexy, yet tame enough to be viewed by their two young children.
Eberle and Wolfe turned to Amanda Hill, whose pinup portrait business, Memphis Bombshells, is emerging as a distinct brand from the wedding and boudoir specialties at Hill's AM Photography.
One of the newest tenants of the Broad Avenue arts district, Hill offers women of all ages an opportunity to get dolled up with vintage clothing, makeup and hairdos and pose like Betty Grable in a one-piece swimsuit. She
hasn't had a man ask to pose for a beefcake shot yet, but "I would be totally up for it," Hill said.
Hill, 29, grew up in Jackson, Miss., and earned a psychology degree from Mississippi College, where friends encouraged her to pursue photography. She started the studio with her husband, Jonathan Hill, in 2009 after returning from a stint as a missionary in West Africa.
They moved to Memphis in 2010, had a studio in Cooper-Young, then Harbor Town, before relocating to 2553 Broad last September. They live upstairs from the studio.
In addition to the studio, Hill blogs as a part-time social media specialist for Choose901, which showcases Memphis' positives to young professionals via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She also does social media consulting for nonprofits.
Boudoir photography was a natural extension of her wedding shoots and work for Southern Bride magazine, where Wolfe is director of sales.
"Brides would ask me if I could do something special for their husbands," Hill said.
It was a bit of a stretch, given her conservative Baptist background, Hill said.
"A lot of people don't understand it in the South. I've been judged for it," she said.
She collaborates with Alex Rushing, owner of The Ivory Closet in Harbor Town, The Attic in Overton Square and Adel Amor Cosmetics, on the boudoir shoots. "It's very classy and artfully done and tasteful," Hill said.
Pinup studies came next, especially the work of Gil Elvgren, renowned pinup portrait artist. "Gil Elvgren is a huge inspiration of mine. He would pose the women in his studio and he would paint them."
"My goal is to make anybody feel like they can do it," said Hill, who relies on vintage clothing boutiques and stylists to pamper photo subjects before a shoot. "You don't have to be a model."
Having said that, April Eberle and Lindsay Wolfe graced the tool calendar and a private pinup, respectively, because they were modeling for Hill already.
Snap-on was among repair shop suppliers that distributed semi-risque calendars before stopping because of concerns about sexual harassment.
"All the mechanics were complaining they wanted calendars with women," Eberle said.
Giving away commercially available calendars with women in bikinis or topless could have been a liability issue, he said, so Memphis Bombshells was the logical choice.
"We did that because my wife is a pinup model to start with, and all the mechanics we go to like that sort of thing. We printed 300 of them, and they're all gone. I can't believe how popular the calendar is."
On the cover, April Eberle and Jen Johnson strike leggy poses in high heels, jean shorts and garage mechanic-type shirts, cinched at the waist. The backdrop is a couple of tool boxes and a Snap-on Racing compressor.
"No one's going to look at it and say it's offensive," said Marvin Eberle.
Wolfe presented her husband with pinups that included a highway hitchhiking scene in which she plants one foot on a suitcase, hiking her skirt to reveal some leg and a garter, and another shot of her talking on a vintage telephone.
"He loved it," Wolfe said.
"In my mind, the pinup portion of her business is just so classy," she said. "Being in the business, with Southern Bride, there was no embarrassment on my part for anyone to see those photos. Amanda keeps her business very classy. It's appropriate for a woman of any age, for someone doing it for an engagement gift for a husband, all the way to an anniversary gift."
Many of the photos can be found at memphisbombshells.com.
Hill loves the transformation that takes place as subjects are prepared for shoots with hairdos and makeup by vintage hairstylist and makeup artist Stephanie Brick and clothing from places like CrazyBeautiful, a boutique on Walker, or Flashback, on Central.
"Everything I can do to make a woman feel good, I'll do it, especially moms. They're always doing everything for their kids," Hill said.