Portfolio: David Vance

Portfolio: David Vance

He considers himself semi-retired, yet he’s still shooting (“it’s a bit of an addiction”) and he’s still publishing the wondrous coffee table books we love him for. “I am a self-confessed beauty addict,” Vance admits on his Kickstarter page. “But my taste in beauty is broad. It might be just one feature or a body part or even an attitude that compels me to make a photograph. Maybe it’s just the composition or the light that is beautiful. It might be a gesture or a graceful movement. Sometimes it’s a look coming deep from within that I relate to, or that moves me emotionally. The beauties of my world are all encompassing. They are far beyond just physical. What captures my heart is the spiritual connection with my subject.” We’re honored to ask the legendary David Vance about his early days at Playgirl.

How did you and Playgirl come about? Do you remember exactly when?

I think it may have been Nancie S. Martin [Editor in Chief in the late 80s] who contacted me about a pictorial to be shot on the beach.

In an interview for Esquire you said: “It was fairly easy to get people to pose nude right off the street. I only remember one model who was reluctant to show his penis. The majority were people who didn’t work out at all. They just were well proportioned.” What more can you tell us about the 70s?

It’s true. I was working on my first book, Visions, around 1973. I would actually stop people in the street and tell them I was working on a book of nudes and would they be interested in posing. It was a freer time. People were less uptight about nudity and, of course. it was pre-internet. With the advent of the internet things tightened up. All of a sudden, potential models were aware that their image could end up being seen world- wide.

Did Playgirl enforce strict editorial guidelines or did they let you free to explore?

Not that I recall. Of course, the direction of the magazine kept shifting between frontal and no frontal.

Most fans well remember your January ‘87 Man of the Year spread (Phil Barone)

I remember Phil. I had photographed him for other commercial and editorial projects. When it came to shooting him for Playgirl, it was during a period when they wanted the centerfold to be more erotic and I felt awkward asking him to get erect… I think it was the first time I was ever in a situation like that. Not the last, LOL.

And, of course, we remember the iconic Feb ’87 ‘Valentine’ spread with Terrence Dineen.

He was a sweetheart. Also a model I had photographed many times… Pretty sure that was during a no frontal period.

What about the June ‘88 cover, with the ‘return’ of Steve Rally?

I have that cover but don’t recall much about that shoot, other than I was up a ladder.

Who are your favorite Playgirl models?

I don’t really have a favorite, but the most memorable shoot was Man of the Year William Wood. We were shooting at a house in Venice out on the back deck when the stylist, Lore Patterson yelled “EARTHQUAKE!” In the distance we could see the horizon rolling… It only lasted a few minutes but it was quite an experience. We kept shooting. You can see the photo in the magazine where Bill is standing in the doorway against a wood wall with a cactus and a cow skull.

You stopped collaborating with the magazine in 1988, shortly after it got sold. Just a coincidence or you did not see eye to eye with the new owners?

I do remember finding it disconcerting shooting these sophisticated non explicit editorials only to have them followed by some random guy with a, erection standing in a field. 🙂 But I was also hired to shoot several non-nude pictorials, including Howie Mandel and Andrew Stevens.

Is there a David Vance/Playgirl recipe when it comes to the male nude and erotic art? We can always tell it’s a David Vance pictorial —your style (regardless of the theme and the settings) immediately jumps out at us. Is it the sculptural, three-dimensional way you light and capture the male form?

At Playgirl, we always tried to do a kind of at-home-with… story. Something that felt natural. These days, I shoot mostly in my home studio and tropical property.