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Artist Christian Kieffer is an avid World Word II enthusiast with a lifelong passion for aviation and aerial combat. As a professional photographer in the US, he decided to make contact with warbird owners and began shooting retro models as the “Warbird Pinup Girls”.
The project started in 2008 and a few years later Christian produced a wall calendar with exciting images. For the past decade, the Warbird Pinup Girls have generated a huge audience worldwide.
All aircraft in the photoshoots are flight-worthy aircraft that are still in operation today. Operators from flight museums, private owners and conglomerates joined in to contribute to the project. The collection consists of some of the rarest aircraft in the world including an original BF109 de Havilland Mosquito, which was the only flying example at the time, and the illustrious XP82 Twin Mustang, which is rare among warbirds. In total, the collection includes more than 100 warbird aircraft.
The concept was to bring aircraft “nose art” to life in a tasteful manner. Nose art is a very specialized art form that only took place in the combat zones during World War II. This was the act of painting a personalized image for the pilot or crew on the aircraft. Many of these images were of beautiful women, scantily clad but never lascivious. Often these young ladies were the girlfriends and wives back home as the men dreamed of leaving combat and returning. Having a picture of their beloved on the aircraft gave them a boost of morale. Most of the images were copied from Esquire magazine, which at the time included the “gate fold”, today known as the “pin-up girl” centerfold in other magazines. Amateur and professional artists would recreate these “pin-up girls” on the fuselage or on the nose area of the aircraft.
Nearly a century later, the artist brings old aircraft pictorial art back to life. During the photoshoots, great effort is used to recreate these beautiful women with authentic wear and traditional poses. Some of the greatest pinup artists came from Esquire. “We often painstakingly searched for the right girl for the right picture”, says Christian, “We have had tremendous luck finding great models in the area of the aircraft locations. Choosing our models is a difficult process as we have high standards and seek a unique look. It has always been our goal to create the most authentic 40’s pin-up girl.”
But more than that, the girls had to be voluntary, and travel to air show events to meet the fans all over the country. Many fans were very eager to get a picture with these famous smiling beauties. And there are many fans… The Warbird Pinup Girls Facebook page has more than 250K followers.
“We like to inspire people to learn about the second world war and its amazing aviation history”, continues Christian, “We like to learn you about this unique American art form that is all but forgotten. We believe that these images can still raise morale in the times we are in today.” Many soldiers hung calendars in their barracks crossing off the days until they return home. And still today, thousands of veterans continue to display the famous pinup girls calendars long after the month has passed.
In 2022 Christian published a his third book “The Collectors Book”, an all comprehensive collection of his work and how it all started. The book is very detailed with special notes and commentary to the aircraft used. It describes how the shooting took place and explains the challenges the team had to undertake to produce each image.
The book has the complete collection of everything published and many others that have not been published before. The work includes “behind the scenes” images, so you can see how it was all done. There are two featurette sections of a four page layout. One is on the incredible story of the XP-82 restoration. Another four page spread is dedicated to the AVG Flying Tigers featuring a real tiger on the set.
This third publication is sure to inspire all fans and help make new ones. “We use this book and other platforms to educate people on the aircraft and restoration updates. It’s important to raise awareness to the preservation of these amazing aircraft and the men that flew them”, concludes Christian.
“The Collectors Book” is available on Amazon in the form of a 300 pages hardbound. There is also a limited high quality paperback that is signed and personalized by the author Christian Kieffer. Contact the author to obtain your personal copy.
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