Las Vegas Photographers, Makeup Artist and Hair Styling.
Our Specialty is Contemporary Beauty and Glamour Photography,
A Bit About My Glamour and Centerfold Photography Career -- By John Copeland
We love making our clients look beautiful and sexy! We are influenced by both the older classic styles of pinup photography as well as shooting the most modern and dynamic fashion looks or giving them the slick, polished, "Centerfold / Porn Star box cover" glossy look. Every shoot and every model brings us something new and fresh, with their own ideas, their own styles and their own faces and figures.... We just try to show them as they want to see themselves, and as we see them.... using all of the makeup, hair, lighting and other techniques we have available.
and glamour photography in Las Vegas is a part of the culture of
the city. From the early days of
gangsters and showgirls, the topless revues and the risque shows,
to today's multi, multi-million dollar venues, starring the likes
of Cher, and Bette Midler, glamour and sexy images are synonymous
with Las Vegas. The glitz and flash is visible everywhere. Visitors
come from all over the world to partake in gambling, partying, and
entertainment. So why not take a bit of the glamour and fun back
home with you? in the way of high end, classy, elegant glamour or
Glamour Photography has been around since the development of the first cameras, and the semi clad or partially nude and seductive female form has been the favorite subject of artists since the first records of man. Early photographers were very limited and finding models was not always easy. The cameras were large, bulky, expensive and complicated and before film the images were made on specially treated photo sensitive glass plates. Developing the images was also difficult. The final images were not very clear and the lenses were not very sharp. However... "where there is a will, there is a way" and early on in the entertainment business, film stars and their agents and producers soon discovered the success that came from having glamorous photos of their clients. A "photo is worth a thousand words" and beautiful, idealized, romanticized and glamorized photos made household names of many celebrities of the 20's, 30's and on up today. Photographers could use special posing, lighting and retouching techniques to make "stars" out of the most ordinary of women.
During World War II many soldiers found sexy, pinup photos of "Hollywood" starlets inspirational and comforting. Something to live for. Many of their favorites went on to become well known actresses. After the war "Art" magazines, and "Nudist Lifestyle" publications allowed for ever more revealing photos to work their way into a still quite conservative world. These publications while "pure" by today's standards were often banned and considered illegal in many parts of the country. Still the hunger for ever more revealing images continued. The Strip-Tease and Burlesque night clubs found their way into the cities and sexy photos of their stars became popular pinups. Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, and Lily St. Cyr and Betty Page stirred the imagination of many young men. Las Vegas became know as Sin City and topless revues brought tourist from around the country.
In the mid 1950's Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine brought female nudity into the open to the American public. He aimed his publication at middle America and brought not only photos, but a philosophy of life that changed America, and the world forever. Playboy celebrated the female form. He hired the best commercial photographers and booked the most beautiful and voluptuous models he could find. By the mid-60's it seemed every gas station, frat house, or teen age male's bedroom either had Playboy centerfolds on their wall or hidden somewhere nearby safe from prying eyes. The photos were very well done and the models exceptional. Marilyn Monroe was his first "Gatefold" and "exposure".
The 1960's brought America into a new age. We were having growing pains and we saw our leaders and those we admired assassinated. We went to the moon and more and more began to question the culture of America. "Questioning Authority" and asking why? Rebelliousness was causing a divide between the old guard and newer generations that questioned their rules and their way of life. We found ourselves in a war that we did not understand and Americans found thousands of their friends, sons, and family dying in a war they did not understand. It was a time when the world was in turmoil and you had the "Love, and Peace" hippies, questioning everything -- versus the "America Love it or Leave it" status quo.
During this time in London a young American artist
name Bob Gucionne was trying to start a new men's magazine on a minimal
investment. He did something that had never been done in a newstand
publication. He included women with full
frontal nudity, artistically photographed and prominent in his magazine.
The photographic style was reminiscent of French impressionist painters,
soft, romantic images, but these were photos of real women -- not
paintings -- and totally nude. He was soon jailed. The publicity
generated by both the explicitness and the attempt at artistic interpretation
of sensuality and sexuality created a lot of interest, and in 1969
Penthouse began publication in the U.S. as a more sexual competition
I was a soldier in Vietnam in 68 - 69 and while Playboy was the mainstay, the new Penthouse really caught everyone's attention. I worked in the photolab of a mapping unit and had bought a Nikon camera while there. I really liked photography and took a lot of photos there and when I came home on leave. I did my first sexy photos of women in those years. I had always been good at art and liked to draw pictures of sexy girls from cartoons and comic books - the camera made it all come to life. I photographed my girlfriends in that time in sexy, pinup styles and we found it exciting and loved the results. I was hooked.
I got out of the Army in 1970, and soon moved to the beach in Santa Monica. In 1972 I enrolled as a commercial photography student at Santa Monica College. I worked as graphic arts cameraman at a Santa Monica newspaper during much of the time and spent the rest at school. It was the 70's, and everybody was pretty much into everything that was wild and crazy. I found no problem finding willing models for my school assignments as well as doing my early attempts at Playboy, Penthouse style glamour photos.
As the 70's progressed and glamour photography continued to evolve, so did the explicitness of the centerfold and feature photos in Penthouse. Even Playboy jumped in for a short time as did all the other men's magazines that had came into the market. I wasn't offended in the slightest. I liked doing sexy shoots. It was in late 1975 that one of the girls I had done nudes on asked me to submit her to Playboy. I submitted her and showed them other work that I had done. I hoped they might want me to shoot for them, but it was not to be. They were interested in one of my models but said "they had their own photographers". My work was too Penthouse style for them. So I thought, hmmm... maybe I should try Penthouse.
One of the girls I had photographed, said she would love to do Penthouse. Back then they had a office on Sunset Blvd, just a couple of blocks west of the Playboy building. I told her we would need something more explicit for Penthouse... and she said that was "not a problem..." Photography was expensive and I had only the money I made at the newspaper and from the GI bill. Luckily (?) I had been rear-ended on the freeway the year before, which kinda screwed up my back and I received a pretty decent settlement and had enough money left over to buy a three light studio strobe setup a new Nikon and lens, and a RB67 for polaroiding my lighting. The film and processing was still expensive, but I had a start.
I also needed somebody that could do the makeup. Even then, I knew that good makeup could make or break a photoshoot and was so very important. I had tried to do it myself but I just didn't have the knowledge and training, and I wasn't very good. My old photo instructor introduced me to a student named GiGi that had shot some fashion stuff for a assignment in his class. I asked her to do makeup for me and she agreed. We finally submitted the shots to Penthouse in late 1976. I had submitted at perhaps the perfect time. Photographer Jeff Dunas had left Penthouse a couple of years before, and Ken Marcus had just left as well and was going to Playboy. Only Earl Miller was shooting in L.A. an it turned out they wanted someone else in town as well. I got along well with the office staff and with their help and support, as well as the great work from GiGi, I unknowingly began a career that still continues today. My life as a real-life glamour photographer was on it's way.
By the late 70's Penthouse circulation had climbed to a level almost equal to Playboy's, and Larry Flint's "Hustler" with its "explicitness for explicitness sake" was hot on the heels of both of them. My first Penthouse centerfold was December of 1978. Her magazine name was Amber Ramsey and she was a trained ballet dancer from somewhere north of L.A. My first tests shots on her were "very Penthousy" with a bit of David Hamilton thrown in... beautiful, pastels, soft, romantic, but also very directly sexual and explicit. Penthouse loved the shoot and by the time it was published the December, I had 3 other centerfolds already accepted and in line for publication. I was heavily inspired by Bob Gucionne's own photography, and the way he posed and directed his models which is probably why he liked my work.
In the 80's Centerfold men's magazines became a huge business and adult videos were gaining rapidly in popularity as everyone got video recorders. There was a lot of competition within the magazines. Hustler was the only one growing at that time, but everyone there was so crazy we figured that they would implode at any moment. They almost did several times, but the magazine kept strong. The soft focus, gauzy look of the photos from 70's Penthouse became a standing joke and Hustler's super sharp images and high quality, glossy printing (not to mention their penchant extreme pink shots!) Drew more and more readers. Copy cat publications popped up all over, not only in the US but around the world. The demand for models and photosets for all these publications was growing rapidly.
I was fortunate to be a Penthouse Staff photographer at the time that Penthouse began heavily going after and licensing foreign editions. I had been shooting like crazy and spending time in Hawaii and shooting in amazing locations when I was offered the opportunity to go and help "jump-start" the new German Edition of Penthouse. I was given exactly 4 days to get a Passport and be ready to go -- to a small town in Italy where the new owners lived during the summer. Nobody knew the city and I had no idea what to expect. Wow!... this was all happening very fast. Suddenly I was flying all over the place, making lots of money and having no idea what all I was doing. The publishers of the German Penthouse, had a castle in that small town in Italy... yep, a real castle!... and it sat overlooking the Italian Riviera. It was an amazing trip, and they wanted me to shoot 6 centerfold for them in 6 weeks. All, in and around the castle. I was photographing girls all the time it seemed. Most didn't speak much English and I spoke NO German! It was very interesting and a lot of fun. Much of the time it was just the two of us, shooting whereever we wanted in and around the castle grounds. I met the publisher's family and they treated me really fantastically. I ate with the family every day and had a chance to experience a lifestyle most only dream about. I was also paid very well -- something I have come to appreciate even more now than I did then.
It was also a lot of work. I did not have an assistant and did all my own schlepping of equipment. (my back today is testament to all the schlepping I did.) I also had to learn glamour photography in the style required for the German newsstand publications. It was different. For one thing the styling for the models... big hair, dragon lady finger nails, strong tan lines and crazy makeup which was big in the US at the time, was not popular in Europe, and the more explicit "Hustler Style" photos were definitely NOT allowed. In Germany then newsstand publications have very strict censorship rules and regulations. Everyone thinks that in Germany there is pornography everywhere -- not true. Any publication sold on the newsstand to the general public is under "Youth Protection Regulations" where what you can show and what you can NOT show and HOW you show or don't show itis highly regulated. In the Sex Shops you can purchase most any type of pornography you can imagine, however entry into these shops is not allowed for anyone under 18 years. Something that is interesting is that bare breasts or buttocks are allowed practically everywhere, they stare out at you from every newsstand, and it is not uncommon for mainstream publications to have bare bosomed models on their covers adorning every magazine seller's windows. Nudity is just more natural there. Lakes, beaches, and parks all have clothing optional areas.
As you can see, the types and styles of glamour photography, or in this case centerfold photography or even model photography in general, can differ greatly on what is allowed from state to state and most certainly from country to country. Most Europeans find the American obsession with nudity and sexuality quite humorous. For them it is much more a normal part of life, and therefore nothing to fear or obsess on. They enjoy being nude at the beach, a appreciate beautiful bodies and they are certainly very sexually active. The age of consent is 16 years in Germany and sexual crimes are at a much lower rate there. I loved the European attitudes on sexuality and nudity, it seemed so fresh and clean.
I had the chance to move to Germany in January of 1984 and work for the German Penthouse full time. I photographed most every centerfold and cover for the magazine over the next 2 1/2 years. I worked as a staff photographer, with producer Uschi Borsche a wonderful and talented makeup artist and hair dresser from the German cinema who had her own studio in Munich. She did makeup and hair, organized the layouts, together we styled them and I photographed them. It was a great time. She had contacts with high-end clothiers and great locations and we were able to lend a more fashion oriented twist to the shoots we did there.
It was at this time that I began doing a lot of private productions. I would hire models and shoot them on "speculation" and syndicate them offering specific publication rights to the photos to magazines, calendars, books and publishers around the world. It was smart for me to do it because all of the work done for Penthouse was owned by them, and my private productions were owned 100% by me. The publisher of Penthouse wanted that I remain exclusive, however, after I moved there, he knew he "had me" and the amount he was paying became smaller and smaller... so shooting on my own was necessary.
It was anyhow time for a change. I called the chief editor of the Germany Playboy, met with him and worked out an arrangement to shoot centerfolds features and covers for them using my real name and that anything else would be published under a pseudonym. This worked great. I got quite a bit of work and attention there the first year. however I was not very popular with the other Playboy photographers or the art director. I heard many years later that there had been little side deals where money was being kicked back from the photographers in exchange for assignments. I never had to that. I had by passed the art director and had the job before either of us had even met. I was also doing productions in less time and for less costs than the other photographers, (as I had no reason to pad my time or expenses) It took him almost two years to find a way to get back at me, but after terrible weather in Hawaii caused me to come up with sub par shoots he apparently convinced the powers to be that it was my fault and arrogance that resulted in the poor product.
By this time I had met Christiné and we had fallen in love and were doing a lot of private productions that I was selling back in America. After that experience at German Playboy, I vowed to never work directly for another publication exclusively ever again. We came back to the states and setup a tiny studio in a friend's hair salon in Westwood (Los Angeles) in 1988 and moved to a larger place in south Hollywood/Wilshire area in 1990. We were shooting all kinds of stuff and doing a lot of headshots, portfolios, promo photos, and makeovers for business women and realtors we met through a PR firm. We would usually do the professional commercial shots, and then do something very glamorous or a bit crazy with them. It was a lot of fun. Back then I did print retouching (No Photoshop back then!) and it was a tremendous amount of work, almost like doing a painting. We were also still doing our independent centerfold style productions and selling layouts back to the German, Australian, and English editions of Penthouse, as well as some foreign editions of Playboy and many other smaller independent US and International publications.
This was a time when the magazine business had become very diluted and everyone was trying to find their place... Strip clubs were the hot item, and the girls that worked in them wanted to be in magazines so they could become feature dancers. The magazines became promotional vehicles for them and the clubs and for the adult films being produced. We had agents bringing in girls all the time... many of them at the time came from Canada all wanting to be shot for a magazine. There were some really great models coming through -- too many for us to shoot all that we wanted. Boob jobs were IN... tan lines were IN... and strippers were everywhere... unfortunately the rest of the world was not crazy about this look. We hooked up with magazines that liked more of a European style - a more natural sexiness, casual, more "real girl" of the time... We de-glammed the models, we did grunge style shoots, put the girls in Doc Martins, and tried to avoid the stripper clichés on much of what we shot. It gave us a niche that kept our photosets selling.
In 1991 I was approached by a company who was getting ready to market a little item called a "Photo CD" It was something where people could look at photos in color on their computers! I wasn't sure about these guys (at the time, I had a old IBM running DOS that could not show photos of ANY kind!) but they seemed really on the up and up and offered a nice commission on sales... they needed stuff fast because the big computer shows were coming up... and photos on computers, they said, was the next "Hot Market". It sounded worth a try and we did a edit of left over shots we had and sent them a few hundred. These CD things sold like crazy! The company wanted more, and we gave them more, they dropped prices and our commission percentages but the sales continued to grow at a rate that more than made up for it. It was great while it lasted, and it allowed us to rev up our business and eventually move to Las Vegas and buy our home here.
(to be continued)