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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arny Freytag: Master Of The centerfold

With an eye for detail, unparalleled lighting skills and the ability to connect with a model, Arny Freytag’s career at Playboy traces that magazine’s cutting-edge glamour nude photography

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Pinup photography may seem straightforward, but delivering the goods in a high-pressure, deadline-oriented environment takes a lot of work behind the scenes. Arny Freytag has a well-trained eye for models, and he has developed a considerable patience in pulling poses, often from women who aren't professional models. His technical proficiency is something to behold, often employing upwards of 30 lights for a single shot. As a film shooter, Freytag began with 8x10-inch transparencies, using transfer prints and airbrushing to retouch. Centerfolds would be allotted five days for a shoot; now that he uses digital, he has a single morning.

Beginning publication in 1953, Playboy rose to become one of the most iconic magazines and a force that sought to liberate a puritanical America. Top-notch, high-minded writing and reverential, glamorous photography were the pillars upon which the Playboy empire was built. The graphic images that bombard the Internet today make the magazine's imagery seem tame by comparison. Yet Playboy—the magazine, the organization and the mystique behind the Bunny—lives on.

High-quality photography has been a hallmark of the magazine since its inception. Photographer Arny Freytag has produced the most centerfolds in the history of Playboy and continues to do so today. The Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based photographer first studied fine art and graphic design before switching to photography in the 1970s.

His early pursuits with brushes and pencils helped shape and mature his eye through a careful study of light and shadow.

DPP: How did you become a Playboy photographer?

Arny Freytag: I was actually doing nude photography as a hobby while I was at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara from 1971 to 1974. It was really strict there back then. We couldn't even have hair that touched our ears and we weren't allowed to shoot sexy or nude photos. But I did it anyway because I wanted to meet girls and I loved photographing them. Brooks was teaching architectural photography and how to show interiors, cars, tabletop—and I hated it. So this gave me something fun to do. In my very last class before graduation, the teacher, Phil Cohen, said, "You guys can turn in any assignment you want, no rules." So I turned in a black-and-white nude. He pulled me aside and said, "Do you have any more of this stuff?" I thought, "I'm going to be expelled!"

I showed him some more images, and he said, "You should be working for Playboy." I said, "What?" That idea had never even crossed my mind. He told me, "This is obviously what you're very good at." So he got me an internship at Playboy. If it weren't for Phil, I would probably be shooting Hallmark cards or something like that right now.

DPP: Instead, you've become the most prolific photographer for Playboy in the history of the magazine. How many centerfolds have you photographed?

Freytag: Over 150 centerfolds and more than 70 covers. I shot my first centerfold in 1976.

DPP: How has shooting for the magazine changed since then?

Freytag It's become a lot more technical, a lot more lights, a lot more props. It really got prop-crazy, clothes-crazy, set-crazy when West Coast Photography Editor Marilyn Grabowski was doing most of the sets. For her, it was all about the sets and all about the clothes. The girl was secondary. She retired in 2007. We're actually trying to go the other way these days.


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