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A Certain Joie de Vivre: The Pinup Style of Photographer Eve Saint-Ramon

By Charles Purdy

Eve Saint-Ramon is a French photographer known for crafting evocative images with a vintage feel—her pinup-style photos hark back to the glamour of a bygone era while expressing female power and an effervescent eroticism. She shoots for a diverse array of clients—business, retail, editorial, and others—and is an Adobe Stock Premium contributor.

When asked whether she approaches her commissioned work in a different way from her personal work, Eve Saint-Ramon answers that she doesn’t really have what she thinks of as personal work. She explains, “I can’t distinguish between my personal work and my professional work—my personal work is my professional work.”

This personal investment is evident in her vibrant, almost cinematic photographs, which are alive with story and which portray Saint-Ramon’s subjects—who are both professional models and non-models—as strong, confident, and alluring.

“My photos reflect women as they are,” says Saint-Ramon. “I would describe my work as ‘reality arranged so as to express women’s voices.’”

1950s-style woman on a Paris street car, photograph by Eve Saint Ramon
1950s-style women being photographed, a photograph by Eve Saint-Ramon

An exciting use of color is evident in much of Saint-Ramon’s work. She says, “Vivid, varied colors can be indispensible for me, for concretizing my refutation of gloom.”

Saint-Ramon has worked in a retro pinup style for most of the 15 years of her photography career. “I love this representation of women who seem ingenuous and naïve but who are in fact in complete control of everything,” she says, “women who have one foot in reality and another in fantasy, women who are caught in the photographer’s frame but who are also in charge of their own destinies and creating their own adventures.”

Black and white photo of a woman

Saint-Ramon says that she likes her images to show women in control of their self-expression.

She continues, “In my work, you won’t see spread legs or exposed breasts—or very rarely. I hate vulgarity. Subtlety, delicacy, and elegance are for me much more erotic…. My pinups claim the joie de vivre of women at ease in their own skin.”

INSPIRED BY THE PAST AND THE PRESENT

On her Instagram profile, Saint-Ramon says she is a  “professional Parisian photographer of domesticated animals”—the description reveals a sense of playfulness about her work, which also addresses more serious ideas about how women are perceived and portrayed. “An element essential to my inspiration is humor,” she says. “It gives humanity to the sensuality in my photos…because for me, sensuality can be only sparkling and joyful.”

 

Paris and its people are also primary inspirations. “I have a very developed capacity to listen,” she says, “and I love to watch people…. Sitting on a café terrace, watching the city and its activity—that inspires me a lot. Just to converse with someone nourishes my imagination and creativity.”

But if everyday life is a point of departure for Saint-Ramon, her photos also have an element of allegory and often depict a timeless sophistication.

She says that she likes to accentuate the personality of the people she photographs, many of whom are people she knows from the worlds of theater, fashion, and burlesque performance.

Saint-Ramon says that her series Parisian Woman is an excellent illustration of her point of view as a photographer.  

“I think my series Parisian Woman perfectly illustrates my point of view,” says Saint-Ramon. “I asked my friend Louise de Ville to pose for me—she’s an artist, a performer, a burlesque dancer, a feminist, and an actress…. She has found an unstoppable way to get her message across: high heels, sequins, and nudity rather than banners and long speeches…. The woman in these photographs can show her sensuality and her force as she wishes. She isn’t obligated to follow the dictates of society.”

Saint-Ramon says she loves portraying this image of a Frenchwoman who is in control of her sensuality, adding, “You can also find this theme in my series set on a beach and my series set on the flooded Seine.”

This image is also from Saint-Ramon’s series Parisian Woman—to go deeper into this series, read this “Behind the Image” post on the Adobe Creative Cloud blog.

A PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTISAN

Fifteen years into her career, Saint-Ramon is a proudly self-taught professional photographer.

As a young woman, she felt that the medium of photography offered the best way for her to express herself. So she learned on the ground, choosing jobs that would expose her to photography: news agencies, museums, galleries, and production houses, as well as photography studios.

At that time, Saint-Ramon didn’t think that she would someday earn her living as a photographer, but she soon started getting commissions—portraits, catalogs, and ads—and she developed her vintage pinup style early on.

Saint-Ramon says that photos from this series, shot on the banks of the flooded Seine, are also good representations of her style as a photographer. On her shoots, she generally prefers to work with a team including a hair stylist and a makeup artist.

She says, “I see myself more as an artisan responding to requests than as an artist. My clients are stylists, industrial clients, boutiques, editors, hotels, and a variety of artists…. I love sharing and exchanging with people. I’m empathetic and an attentive listener but a bit stubborn, too, so the ideal clients for me are those who like to make themselves understood, and whom I can assist in the realization of their vision.”

Saint-Ramon is a digital photographer, but her roots in film photography are evident in how she works.

She spends a lot of time working out the brief with the client—sometimes more time than she spends on the shoot itself—and she thinks a lot about what she wants to capture before she begins taking pictures.

This photograph is from a series that Saint-Ramon shot at a beach—another that she says typifies her style.

“I’m pretty fast when I’m shooting,” she says, “And when I have the shots I want, I stop. I don’t take a lot of extra photos.”

She finishes her photos in Adobe Photoshop CC—correcting color, adjusting contrast, and so on. “I do all of that myself,” she says. “I have designed my own little recipe for my ‘vintage’ treatment. I know that there are presets now that do this very well, but when I started shooting digitally, they didn’t exist.”

However, if customers want more complex alterations to a photo, she entrusts that to other professionals. “I see this as a different job from photography,” she says.

Saint-Ramon says she loves releasing photos for use as stock photography via Adobe Stock. “They no longer belong to me,” she says of her photos, after she has crafted them so carefully, “I let them live with others. My photos can travel around the world and be shown to other cultures.”

And, she adds, if the use of her photos helps her broadcast the messages, the women’s voices, that she’s expressing in her work, so much the better.

To see more of Eve Saint-Ramon’s photography, check out her Tumblr page and her Adobe Stock Premium contributor profile.