The gallery is proud to present vintage photographs from
the 1970s produced by Nova Studios, an early pioneer in gay
male pornographic films. Originally intended for publicity purposes,
they now stand on their own merits as true photographic originals.
Their importance as documentation of the sexual liberation of
the era is indisputable, but judged by today’s critical
standards of composition, lighting and technique, they rival
the work of contemporaries such as Roger Ballen in their tight
Founded by Warren Stephens (using the nom-de-porn "Robert
Walters") in Los Angeles in 1976, Nova Studios would prosper
for over 10 years. Earlier, in 1970, he had produced his first
film, Drilled Deep. It was a "loop", an 8
mm short film, roughly 200 feet in length, designed to run over
and over in peep shows.
Stephens is responsible for developing the "West Coast
Look" of gay pornography. It was a very stylized and planned
filmmaking style. The films were like staged plays, with very
linear story-telling. He made viewers feel that they were viewing
the action from the best seat in the house. The lighting was
strong, and tended to eliminate shadows and expose flaws in
the performers' skin. Models' hair was carefully groomed, make-up
was used, and cleanliness emphasized. The photographs reflect
all these attributes and more.
Stephens, originally from Illinois, moved to San Francisco
in 1966 from Chicago. By 1967 he would print and distribute
one-off magazines featuring the work of Walter Kundzicz of Champion.
In 1969 he began producing hardcore gay male nude magazines
(the first being Hard?), and began taking photographs
of nude men to supply them.
In 1973 he also founded In Touch magazine (now In
Touch for Men). After being prosecuted in Texas for obscenity,
he pled guilty, was fined, and received a one year suspended
sentence. The judge waived the fine because Masters told him
he was putting a child through college, but he did not reveal
that the college-age student was also his gay lover. He would
also work for Catalina and founded Studio 2000 in 1992 (later
sold to Falcon) before retiring in 2006.