Varga brings vintage va-va-va-voom to Roanoke with vintage pinup girl photography shoots

The magic of vintage glamor is happening this weekend in Roanoke.

Californian photographer Roy Varga has transformed an empty cement block building on Cleveland Avenue in Roanoke into photo series. Her subjects transform into pin-up style by getting outfits and doing their hair and makeup in the VR studio parked outside.

Varga, who has been taking pin-up style and vintage car photos for almost 20 years, has 28,000 followers on Facebook and 24,000 on Instagram. But “I don’t really do social media,” he said as he built the boxing ring around noon Saturday; “I stay booked by word of mouth.”

The other set was a Victorian room with velvet upholstered furniture and a dressing table.

Brittany Vonderhaar of Winston-Salem, NC (right) has always loved the pin-up style, and when she heard vintage photographer Roy Varga would be within driving distance, she took advantage. Her friend Brittany Thurston from Winston-Salem (left) came.


Tiziana D’Urso of Martinville and Brittany Vonderhaar of Winston-Salem, North Carolina were her first clients.

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Vonderhaar, 28, followed Varga’s photograph on Facebook, and when she saw him settling in within driving distance, she took advantage. She’s never done anything like this before, she said, but “I love the pin-up style – I’ve always loved the pin-up style.”

D’Urso, 48, also had Varga take pin-up portraits last year in Roanoke. She said the experience is

“feel good about yourself, and it’s never too late to have fun.”

“For most women, they have to do everything: be a mother, go to work, clean the house. You lose your own individuality. It’s a day to spoil them to just focus on themselves,” Varga said. “That’s why we don’t even allow men in the studio.”


In preparation for a vintage-style photo shoot, Katherine Wolfson of Philadelphia styles Tiziana D’Urso’s hair. D’Urso drove from Martinsville to Roanoke to be photographed by Roy Varga.


The pin-up look “is something that’s pretty universal for everyone,” Varga said. “It suits all types and all cultures. It’s just a very classic and pretty look.

Like anything else, he said, creating the vintage pin-up look starts with research.

“At first the girls start with polka dots and cherries,” he said, but as they develop an idea, “it’s more about creating your own style inside .”

The vintage pin-up look starts with “retro hair” – soft, clean waves, loose or curled. The makeup is characterized by a winged eyeliner and the “red lip is pretty classic.”


Katherine Wolfson presents a selection of shoes, outfits and accessories that women could choose from for their vintage style photography.


The two sides of the pin-up coin are the cheesecake and the vixen.

“The classic cheesecake pinup is pink and blue and more of a lighter makeup look,” he said. “The big smiley faces and the oohs and aahs are more like cheesecake.”

The vixen look is bolder with a more fetish look, he says: wine or blood red on the lips, stiletto nail shape and dark eyeliner with smoky eye shadow.

“The good thing about this style is you can do both in this style and it looks good,” Varga said. A client can start with a full dress for an innocent cheesecake look, then take the dress off for some lingerie shots.

“The sweet, innocent side that you can share with your friends and family, and you have your sensual side that you can share with your boyfriend,” he said.

Varga 2

Roy Varga giving fitting instructions to a client.


“We try to make it really easy where you can walk in, with no experience, no idea what to wear, and we’ll do everything: hair, makeup, wardrobe, coaching… we try to do make it fun to live.”

prep set

Photographer Roy Varga visits 43 cities a year to set up temporary photo studios. Here he just started creating the look of a boxing ring.


“Crazy Transformations”

Katherine Wolfson of Philadelphia has been hairstyling for 16 years, and 10 with Varga.

She works out of an RV that’s been turned into a makeup and hair studio with an exotic island vibe. Towards the rear of the motorhome is a rack of clothes and shoes. Customers can choose from racks and boxes of dresses, shorts, shirts, accessories, shoes and more, and change in a private dressing room.

It creates “crazy transformations,” Varga, 41, said. “We get everything: girls who do it regularly, and we get girls who never wear makeup. When they see each other…it’s a big difference for them.


The women photographed by Roy Varga had the option of using this 1965 Thunderbird as one of the sets.


He started taking photos of friends in his mother’s basement and meeting friends on the street with their cars when he was 22, he said.

Then he opens a studio. He just happened to be near a “prop house that always salvaged leftover Disney props”, which he was able to use in the shoots.

Now he brings his mobile devices to 43 cities a year, photographing about six women a day. On each tour, he brings two sets – this year it’s a Victorian play and a boxing ring – and a vintage car.

“The hardest part is that anyone can misinterpret things these days,” he said. Some people got mad at the whole fortune tellers, calling it cultural appropriation, “but every culture has its fortune tellers,” he said.


The women photographed by Roy Varga had the option of using this 1965 Thunderbird as one of the sets.


“A customer asked for a kitchen set, which sounds harmless enough, but a group of girls said, ‘I don’t want to be put in a kitchen.

“You’re trying to do an idea that’s universal…you’re trying to do it where it’s comfortable for everyone.”

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