07 Apr 2017


It’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but photographer Tony Ward’s homage to the immortal Bettie Page is not merely an exercise in imitation; indeed, it is an example of evolution. Ever since the original “Queen of Curves” first captured the public’s imagination in the oh-so-staid fifties, the likeness of Page has transmogrified into something modern, even timeless. Her influence is still felt today, not just in the art world but in fashion, music, and other areas of pop culture. By forgoing his usual black-and-white imagery with this color pictorial, Ward not only aids in that evolution but uses the dark and sensuous Louva to execute his own erotic vision of what’s to come on the sexual horizon — much the way photographer Irving Klaw did with Page. Using the template of Bettie Page to express this vision, Ward continues a long-held tradition of paying tribute to the world’s most famous pinup while remaining contemporary and original. Page remains the standard for much of what we consider the height of female sexuality. From her trademark bangs to her towering stiletto heels, Page set the bar high for erotic fantasy. Klaw’s bondage photos of Bettie Page were some of the biggest sellers of his Movie Star News mail-order company — and some of its most controversial. No stranger to controversial images himself, Ward presents Louva tightly bound, not just with cuffs and gags but with the constrictive corsetry that molds her form like that of her inspiration. The combination of innocence and lust that made Bettie Page the ultimate sex symbol for men also made her the perfect erotic role model for women. The lovely Louva is a prime example of the effect that Page has had on her female fans — seemingly caged by her own beauty, but still able to let her own lustful ferocity shine through. Today, the boundaries of sexual expression extend far beyond what Page or Klaw could have imagined 50 years ago. Exactly how far those boundaries will extend is anybody’s guess. … Hopefully America’s current return to conservative values will again inspire the libertine in us all to find new means of erotic expression. If Louva and Ward’s collaboration is any indication, we’re headed for a wild and wondrous place, where sweetness and raw sexuality meet and meld into something feral and exciting. Just as Bettie Page did all those years ago.