At first glance, the strikingly beautiful image, above, could be a publicity shot from a glamorous 1950s Hollywood film. The blonde bombshell’s golden locks are teased into gentle waves, while she reclines on a luxurious fur-trimmed rug. But in fact, the bombshell is 23-year-old mum-to-be Ellie Hales, from Hilsea. And she is one of thousands of people Clive and Michelle Hamilton from Vintage Pin-up have weaved their magic on.
Just like Lorna Tume, pictured below, they have been given the Hollywood touch, bringing out their best features to make them feel a million dollars. Since they started their business six years ago more than 4,000 people have been snapped in their studio in Newgate Lane, Fareham, with Michelle doing makeup and Clive taking pictures.
But the couple insist all they do is accentuate their subjects’ already fabulous features. Clive says: ‘Everyone can be beautiful – it doesn’t matter who you are. When I first started photography I worked for a local news agency in London with the old black and white photos – that was 35 years ago.
‘But I have always been fascinated by pin-ups. I remember seeing a woman in front of the Union Flag. It was a simple picture but I loved it and wanted to recreate the idea.’
‘Ages range from 18 to 78,’ says Clive, ‘the 78-year-old simply always wanted to be a pin-up, so she became one.’
Every woman has a different story to tell, and Clive believes the backstory is an important element to every photoshoot.
Clive met Ellie after her mother bought her a voucher for a pin-up experience.
She says: ‘It was something so different and not your usual photoshoot. I had lost a lot of weight, so I thought, why not?’
At 13 Ellie was diagnosed with an unusual brain condition which caused a hormone imbalance and her weight ballooned.
‘I was bullied at school for being big and people were so horrible about it’, says Ellie.
‘I never had any body confidence when I was younger...I just never felt good about myself.’
When Ellie started receiving lumbar puncture treatment for the problem, she eventually lost six stone.
‘My mum said I just woke up one day and it looked like the weight had dropped off,’ Ellie laughs, ‘but that obviously didn’t happen, the treatment just kicked in.’
Thinking back to her young self, sapped of all confidence, Ellie was thrilled with the photoshoot experience. She says: ‘I was so shocked and overwhelmed. I thought “is that even me?” ‘It makes you feel so good about yourself.’
Clive and Michelle’s clients range from divorcees, widowers, cancer survivors and the terminally-ill and simply women who want to feel fabulous.
They say each person brings something unique to the photoshoots and it's not unusual for emotions to run high during the three-and-a-half hour pin-up experience.
‘A few people get the jitters, but we reassure them and they bring their guard down’, says Clive.
‘Social media pressures people to look a certain way and, perhaps, compete with their own expectations. It can leave people feeling quite low. But, of course they’re all beautiful.
‘Social media doesn’t highlight the fact that everyone is so different, no one looks the same. There is actually no such thing as perfect.
‘We want to boost their confidence. We don’t manipulate or change the shape at all.
‘We don’t want them to look at it and think “that’s not me”,’ explains Clive.
Vintage Pin-up has a variety of props to create everything from a sultry boudoir to the classic American diner.
They ask everyone to bring something personal with them.
Clive says: ‘I once photographed a woman who brought a photo of her mother, who had won a 1930s beauty contest and was presented with the award by Laurel and Hardy.
‘She was photographed looking into that photo – it looked amazing.’
Clive believes the final product and the models’ reactions to their photos is really what makes his job worthwhile.
‘It can be moving, some start crying. Many feel over the moon, like they have got a new lease of life and can do anything. It’s great to know you’ve done your job.’
To see a video of Clive and Michelle go to portsmouth.co.uk. Pictures by Sarah Standing