About The Author

Avatar of Chris

Goggles aficionado. Retronaut’s founder and curator.

42 Responses

  1. CatM

    I absolutely agree: Number eleven is a stunner. Number 10 is Ruth Etting.

  2. Nerdessence

    Ah, a time when women were still feminine and demure, with an edge of independence.

    No plastic surgery needed. Bustlines were smaller and hips were pulled in for the defiantly flirtatious and stark garçonne look. Dramatic makeup and gorgeous fashion design abounded.

    This is beauty. Not the modern day mannish beauty.

  3. zgirl

    Can someone explain to me why we should be nostalgic about these photos? I see them as early examples of pornography.

    • Heather

      Site administrator, please do NOT approve pearl clutcher and concern troll comments like the above. She’s just trolling for attention. It’s not a real question intended to obtain any actual answers.

  4. Robyn Jane

    Not a bare nipple among them, and yet these pictures are incredibly erotic.

    Sorry, zgirl. These are NOT pornography. They are fine examples of art. Art which features, by the way, women who are treated with respect and dignity.

    If you want pornography, just look at the way the current US government–especially Congress–views and treats women. Now THAT is obscene!

  5. Cat


    pornography has been around since the dawn of time, and “erotic art” in ancient times was much more obscene than these photos. These photos are actual pieces of art and no where even near “early pornography”. If these photos were meant to be pornographic, boy would you know it.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

  6. Mark

    If you want to see real pornography from exactly those times. and before all they way back to sayyyyy…THE DAWN OF TIME! its not to hard to find. This is certainly NOT it.

  7. Abilene

    @zgirl: I understand what you are trying to say. I agree, pornography comes in many forms and is not limited to simply one style, time period, et al. Some forms are mild and some brash. Simply put, to bear oneself in a fashion as to draw attention to a particular feeling or thought towards wanting to see more (nudity) or think sexual thought is a lure which has overcome societal thought processes and beliefs that it is not “really” pornography. If this is modest to some I would truly cry at what is not modest and to see our young ones flaunting as in these photos. Augusta Renoir was notable for his rendition of art and naked women, many to which claim it is mere art. The denial of pornography will always be seen in order to justify what has been and always will be unacceptable. I care not if one agrees or disagrees whether it is or is not pornography as that will not change fact of pornography.

  8. Bashe

    I think these would definitely have been regarded in their day as soft-core pornography. Showgirls, dancers, and actresses in general were seen as barely at a remove from prostitutes, so any image of them, however beautiful and even chaste by today’s standards, would not have been entirely respectable.

  9. Paul

    I can see the perception of some that this may be erotic, it can easily be seen by many in is way. It should be thought of as would have been at the time it was made too. It may be seen as erotic but it also can be seen as a mix of pleasing visual stimuli. I find it well done as it does please the eye in many ways. Possibly pornographic in a mild way , erotic to an extent, pleasing to the eye greatly in my view for it’s use of subjects to create the image. Like many things produced for public view can be miss used for many reasons.
    I would hope that it be viewed if pleasing or ignored by those who may find it not to their liking.
    This in my opinion is an example of the many pleasant and interesting artefacts showing the life at the time, I would hope most will treat it as such.

  10. Eloise

    If they are early pornography, then great! Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they also paved the way for sexual liberation. Unless of course you’re one of those people who thinks it’s a bad thing that adults can profit from their own bodies and sex appeal simply because you don’t like it. In which case, I’m glad you can’t appreciate this.

  11. concerned cynic

    Anything that flaunted the fact that a woman had no underwear on was soft porn in those days. No general circulation magazine in that era could have published these images without risking trouble with the law. In those days, the only person who could view a woman’s charms without stirring up worries about morals, was her husband.

    When the bikini was invented in 1946, no model would wear it; an exotic dancer had to be hired. Breasts did not go mainstream until Playboy took off. Pubic hair was not mainstream before Penthouse took off. The shaved vulva was not mainstream before the internet.

  12. jeanneke

    these are not porn, guys, this french set of pics is lampooning women in the workplace!

    how funny that now, women are indeed in most of these roles. Without looking quite so cute though :)

  13. BenAliHaggin

    Nerdessence: Why have plastic surgery when you can have photo retouching? :)

    #3 is Libby Holman. #4 is Ann Pennington.

  14. jackie

    Beautiful pictures, so emotive.

    Sad to think they are (probably) long gone now…..

  15. ashlee

    So beautifully done – so elegant and soft , just like the woman should be portrayed -

  16. Joseph Branch Darby

    For you who said you were born in the wrong time, meaning you wish you lived in the 20′s, you could use a history lesson. Hygene was bad, racism flourished and the African Americans lived in fear, oppression, abuse, and poverty, women’s wedding vows were’ “To trust and obey,” and you were facing the great depression and would most likey loose a few family members in WWII.
    Personally, I believe women could also be portrayed as doctors, lawyers, scientists, politians, teachers, etc…
    However, definitely beautiful, fantastic pictures.

  17. Rich

    These are pictures of Florence Zeigfeld’s “Zeigfeld Follies” girls. Pre-depression era. ‘Flo’ Zeigfeld was an American showman. His widow, and onetime “Zeigfeld Follies” girl, was Billie Burke. She was ‘Glinda, the good witch of the north’ in ‘The Wizard of OZ’. Beautiful pictures.

  18. old hippie

    Looking at these pictures what I see is beautiful women, not porn. These young ladies freely posed for the photo’s. To me I see nothing more than a celebration of youth. All these women are now dead and all that they have left behind is what they posed for. Beautiful women, all. I thank them for showing that women were hot even then.

    • Ella

      This “celebration of youth” is a sore point for women like zgirl, who i would wager hasn’t been a ‘girl’ in a very long time.

      How tragic, that some cannot age with grace.

  19. Cat

    Like others, I do not see porn. I have seen porn from this era and it’s totally different. Especially considering some of these women are completely covered and most, are mostly covered. I adore #4. Partly because of her long hair. I’m looking to make a cheesecake calendar for my fella and while this isn’t 50s, I might recreate it anyway. One thing that turns me off from fashion of this time, is the short hair. I refuse to cut my long hair and it doesn’t always match the clothes. Yay for #4!

  20. Opusv5

    That these photos were revealing for their time was probably one reason the Ziegfeld Follies were so popular.
    But they are well-done. As has been stated here: erotic rather than salacious.

  21. Tom

    Please tell me these photographs are available to purchase in large format somewhere?

  22. xoxoxoBruce

    It’s so sad, here in the 21st century, there are so many people that equate nudity with pornography.

  23. Shutterbug Mark

    These shots of the Ziegfeld Girls are all by Alfred Cheney Johnston. Tom – just Google the name and i am sure you will find some source of prints. Bruce – you are so right; I used to do a lot of sensual and glamor style photography as a hobby but if my very best shots ever came even close to Johnston’s I would have been happy. Beauty, a wise man once said, is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe half of it is in the subject. Now, if poor Zgirl could just come out from under her burkha and smell the flowers instead of the sewers…

  24. Lillandria

    I agree with Zgirl and Abilene. All you haters out there please don’t be rude just cause someone has a different opinion then you.

  25. Mechman

    I work as a photo restorer in a high street photography store in the U.K., and we see all sorts of pictures come through the door for fixing and restoration, including a few risqué photos from the 20,s and 30′s, and some even earlier, and the pics shown here are typical of the type we sometimes see – great quality, well lit and entirely inoffensive.
    I would love to know how these women’s lives panned out – did they marry? Have Kids? It would be great to know. They are are all probably now past away or at least very elderly, I also wonder how their relatives would feel about the pictures? Based on my own experience of dealing with people in the shop I have a funny feeling that they would be proud that their Grandmother had the nerve to do such a thing in a time when it was considered very improper. I was dealing with a young lady just a few weeks back week who had found pictures of her Great Grandmother taken in 1924 very similar to these, and they were stunning – and she was over the moon to have found them and saw her own family in an entirely new way.
    People love to be different, and to me these women were exercising that right beautifully. You see more than this on any beach in the Western world every summer. These pics are entirely innocent, thanks for sharing.

  26. Brea

    If you had a computer in 1920′s and were able to google “sexy”, you would come across these photos. Definitely not the case today. My how time changes.

  27. sara

    There is a character in “Boardwalk Empire” who is a dancer and they got the costumes right on.

  28. tr

    The faces and eyes in most of these photos are just stunning.
    Very elegant and even forceful in some instances.
    I’d let them bore a hole through me with a gaze like that.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.