As usual during the holiday season, kind-hearted folks send candy, cards and other gifts to U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan to make them feel more at home.
Frank Monahan, 53, a Collingdale native now living in Fairfax, Va., and Aston photographer Robert Wood have teamed up to support soldiers in a more PG-13 way: pinups.
For the Boys - Pinups for the Troops
, a 156-page book published this year, imitates the World War II-era paintings of Gil Elvgren, with women dressed in old-fashioned lingerie, fishnet stockings, high heels and sometimes less - although never fully nude.
Monahan also produced a calendar of men with their shirts off:
For the Girls - Men Standing Strong,
imitate artwork from more than a half-century ago.
Wood, 52, the only Delaware County photographer to volunteer for Monahan's project, views Elvgren as "kind of like Norman Rockwell with an edge."
Since the book was published in August, about 1,500 copies have been sent to military personnel in Veterans Administration hospitals throughout the United States and to troops serving in England, Korea and other countries. The first batch was sent to a group of five men stationed in Afghanistan.
Monahan, a Monsignor Bonner High School graduate, has a father, a late father-in-law and a son who all served in the military, and for him, the book is a salute to troops. He thinks that, because of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the visible admiration for soldiers has lessened since Elvgren's heyday.
Although after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Monahan said, people might cheer or clap if they saw a person in uniform walk through an airport, a few years and an invasion of Iraq later, that isn't the case.
"Things have really waned recently," Monahan said. "But mostly with politicians fighting and screaming at each other."
Thus, the pinups were reborn. "We need to do something to get the attention of the American people," Monahan said. "I thought it might take something a little edgier."
So he got in touch with Wood, whom he had met when the two were students at Delaware County Community College in the 1970s. Wood has been interested in shooting pictures ever since he was a teenager working at a photo shop near the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby.
Wood selected some Elvgren pictures he would like to imitate and kicked around ideas with Monahan before getting to work in his Glen Mills studio. Monahan was given permission by Brown & Bigelow Inc. to use the 1940s artwork. In the book, Elvgren's originals and the modern adaptations are side by side.
"We wanted to duplicate it as close as possible to what they were even wearing - all the way down to the whole feel of the photograph, even the kind of the same look as far as dipping the heads," Wood said.
The pictures have a strong resemblance, but aren't exact copies. "We wanted to get it close," he said, "but also let me have a little bit of artistic freedom."
For instance, in Wood's favorite, "Now Here's a Cute Little Number," the skirts and tops are different. But both pictures show a woman sitting with her legs crossed, framed by a yellow background, holding phonograph records and giving a smirk.
In another photo, when a specific prop couldn't be located, Wood substituted a creative replacement. The model feigns fear, not over a wind-up crocodile, but a stuffed bunny with teeth.
"This is kind of like an inside joke," Wood said, "because we're all Monty Python fans - like the killer rabbit from
Serena Sofsky, or Serena Star, as she goes by in the book, modeled for Wood. She's a photography student at Antonelli Institute in Erdenheim, where Wood teaches.
Modeling has been a hobby of hers for about five years. At 5-foot-3, she is too short for the runaway - but not for the pinup.
"It's beautiful. It's glamorous," said Sofsky, 19. "It's sexy without being trashy."
Monahan considers the book more tastefully done than an issue of Maxim magazine. "You see far, far worse on television. . . . It is kind of more artistic than anything else," he said.
The 6-by-9-inch books are designed for easy carrying and have water-resistant paper to withstand harsh conditions. Monahan said he has received positive feedback from soldiers and has been working with Pennsylvania VFW posts to try to raise money for distributing them.
"It's been amazing," Monahan said. "The guys themselves really, really love the book. And they're grateful more than anything else."
To learn more about the book, visit