ONE OF THE “BEST PHOTOGRAPHERS IN LAS VEGAS”
BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHER, HEADSHOTS AND PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER, FITNESS,
FASHION AND MODELING PORTFOLIOS
40+ YEARS AS A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER… MARRIED TO MAKEUP ARTIST CHRISTINÉ COPELAND since 1987… WORKING IN LAS VEGAS SINCE 1994
Up until now my life has been one lucky stroke of Serendipity after another. I can only hope it can continue. My trip to become one of the Best Photographers in Las Vegas (for what I do…) has taken many interesting turns. I am a lucky guy. It’s not work when you love what you do. I got into photography at age 18 while a soldier in Vietnam. I have been photographing people, mainly women, of all ages, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities ever since. It has been my one and only “job” since 1978.
I worked as a Staff Photographer for the US edition of Penthouse magazine during its biggest years from 1978 to 1988 while concurrently on the staff of the German edition of Penthouse 1981-1985 and on the staff of German Playboy magazine from 1985 through most of 1987. From 1978 to 2000 I had hundreds of photo layouts published in men’s magazines around the world.
Since the early 2000s Christine and I have worked under the name of Las Vegas Studios Inc. and have done 100s of shoots for the the general public doing everything from personal centerfold style layouts, boudoir, modeling portfolios and actor headshots to commercial photography for advertising.
My Long Journey in Photography
Oregon Country Boy
I grew up in Junction City, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, 15 miles north of Eugene. Our house was in a little group of four homes surrounded by small farms, cornfields and cow pastures.
It was a good place to be a kid. Good schools, and tons of things to do. I have very good memories of those early years.
Moved to Los Angeles
At age 12 we moved to Canoga Park, in the San Fernando Valley in NW Los Angeles. Quite a change in most every respect.. My class had more students than my entire school in Junction City. I felt pretty lost there.
It was a bit of culture shock for a country boy. No kids my age, no nearby fields or parks to play in. I never did feel I fit in there.
Basic Training haircut at Fort Polk, Louisiana 1967
The Army comes calling
I had no real plans after high school. I had done well in drafting, technical illustration and architectural drawing but was working in gas stations and there was no money for college. My parents divorced when I was 15 and I had become a hard-core “car guy”. Cars and girls was all I cared about then, and college was not in my plans.
In 1966 the Vietnam war was going strong. There was no lottery then and I got my draft notice right after turning 18… and there were no “bone spurs” for me.
Rather than end up in the infantry, I enlisted for an extra year in the Army to learn a trade as a Technical Illustrator. (so the recruiter “promised”)
However, nine months later I was in Vietnam drawing maps from aerial photographs for the artillery and infantry. It was there, working in the photo lab printing aerial photographs, that I got into photography. I purchased a Nikon camera at the Post Exchange and I was hooked. Many of my early photos are on the website I built after 9-11 for my old company the 569th Engr. Co. Topo Corps
AFTER THE ARMY, I Moved to the Beach and STUDIED Commercial PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART AT SANTA MONICA COLLEGE.
I was very fortunate in Vietnam. I was in a relatively secure area and next to a great city with beautiful surroundings. I ended up spending 22 months there, I would have stayed longer but I got busted for pot with a group of other guys and was shipped back to the mainland, Fort Bragg NC. to finish out my 3 year obligation.
After the Army, because of my army photo lab training, I was able to get a good-paying union job as a graphic arts cameraman. I took advantage of the GI Bill and signed up for Commercial Photography at Santa Monica College. I never did get even an AA degree but went for 5 years taking all the commercial photography and art classes available.
I was also working mostly full time and carrying a minimum of 12 units plus partying a lot. I didn’t sleep much back then. While there, I also made a point of photographing as many pretty girls in my classes as I could.
Santa Monica College – 1973
First Playboy Submit
A couple of the girls were interested in Playboy magazine.
I eventually submitted photos of both to Playboy magazine.
Playboy was interested in one of my models…
They wanted my model but said they had their photographers and 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.
Penthouse magazine was coming on strong (and sexier) at the time.
My photos got a much better reception there.
First Playboy Submit
My Life Changed Forever
The first shoots I submitted to Penthouse magazine were rejected by the publisher, Bob Guccione. However, It turned out Mr. Guccione liked my photography. (I admit to copying him)
Ken Marcus had just left Penthouse to work for Playboy and Guccione wanted another L.A. based photographer to augment Earl Miller’s fantasy and heavily produced pictorials. I was in the right place at the right time.
I had several new girls I submitted, and they were all approved for shoots. About 6 months later I had my first layout, a centerfold, Amber Ramsey, published in the December 1978 issue of Penthouse.
My life would be changed forever.
In 1980 I was asked to go to Italy to help jump-start the New GERMAN Language EDITION OF PENTHOUSE MAGAZINE.
Penthouse called me and asked if I could go to Italy to shoot 5 centerfolds for the brand new German-language edition of Penthouse. ..uh… Yeah!!!
I didn’t even have a passport at that time and they wanted me ASAP. I got a rush on my passport and picked up some new travel cases and prepared for the assignment. I stopped and met first with Mr. Guccione in NY and he gave some instructions on how to shoot one of the models and off I went.
The Location was Amazing!
The German Penthouse licensee was a major German-language publisher with many magazines. He owned a castle, a real castle, in Loano, Italy on a hill overlooking the city and the Mediterranean.
It is now known as Castello Doria ( a Must See video) It was an amazing experience for me. The castle was an incredible place to shoot.
I went back to the castle a couple of more times, photographing 4 or 5 centerfolds every time. It was a great time and I was very well paid. 🙂
Those times in Loano living in the castle changed the way I thought about everything. I was introduced to a way of life I had never known.
Priceless memories. My times in Europe really did change my life.
Hawaii — Shooting in Paradise
I always wanted to shoot in Hawaii.
A good friend had just bought some property on Kauai and introduced me to a wonderful guy there who became a lifetime friend. He was born and raised on the island of Kauai.
He organized a house for us on the beach in Poipu, a VW bus, and took us to places the tourists never see. I made 4 trips over there in the early 80s. I shot two times on Kauai and once on each Oahu and the Big Island.
I shot in Hawaii multiple times in the late 70s and early 80s. It was a great place back then. There were still many virgin areas to shoot at.
I had hundreds of layouts and covers published in the Seventies, Eighties and nineties
I felt honored that Penthouse felt the shoots I had done deserved a special edition. I still remember the feeling of seeing my first published work. I think many who work in creative fields are always a bit insecure about what they produce. Getting positive re-enforcement helps validate that what we do has some meaning.
WORKING WITH USCHI BORSCHE
In 1982 I worked for the first time with Uschi Borsche.
Uschi had taken over as the producer for the German Penthouse photo productions. We have the same birthday and worked great together. Uschi was a very important influence on my career.
She was a well known Makeup Artist and Hair Designer in German films and had been previously married to a top German film director. She was smart, independent and well-liked. She knew many people.
Uschi always put together great locations and wonderful designer clothing for the Penthouse productions. We did shoots in Rome, St. Tropez, Zurich, Ibiza, and Munich.
I also continued shooting for the US edition of Penthouse during this time with multiple trips to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
IN 1984 I MOVED TO MUNICH GERMANY
In February of 1984, I moved to Munich to work directly with Uschi. She had opened a large studio and still organized all the Penthouse photoshoots as well as other clients. Uschi got me different types of work and I did both some editorial and product photography in the studio.
Uschi introduces me to the “Love of My Life”
One cold winter day in 1985 while I was editing slides in the studio, Uschi came in and introduced me to her new makeup assistant, Christine.
Christine was a cute, spunky, 24 yr. old with dark hair, dark eyes, tight black jeans, leather jacket and boots. She spoke pretty good English and we had a connection right off.
She was also the assistant studio manager so we spent much time together.
She had been working in an upscale Munich Cosmetic Salon. Uschi had been a client and had also been using her to do the model’s prep before we started photographing them. She did facials, waxing, acrylic nails, pedicures, manicures, lash extensions.
She had some experience in her schooling doing makeup and wanted to do it more. I started hiring her to do makeup and hair on some of the models I was doing test shoots or private productions on.
She did really well, was good with the models, and they all liked her.
I had access to more potential models than Penthouse could run. They were very picky and turned down many good models. They did not like that I photographed the rejects for other publications, even if I used a different name. If they didn’t shoot with me they would shoot with someone else.
I decided to contact the Editor of the German Playboy. German Penthouse circulation was almost even with German Playboy at the time and was gaining on them. We met over wine in his office and he told me he would be happy to have me come and work for them. He did not mind that I sold layouts to other publications providing I used a pseudonym.
This was early in 1986. I gave notice at German Penthouse. By this time Christiné and I were living together so it was logical, she would come work with me at Playboy.
I Start Working for German Playboy
Playboy had a great studio with all the latest lighting equipment. The centerfolds had to be shot on 8″ x 10″ view cameras. I hadn’t used one since photo school and it is a tedious process. The art director wanted approval on the polaroids and always had things he wanted changed.
The German Playboy art director did not like how I photographed women. He wanted them more child-like, innocent and submissive in the style. He felt my photography style was too agressive and provocative for German Playboy. This may have been true, but it also was probably why Penthouses circulation was rising while while Playboy numbers wer stagnating in Germany.
He started making my life difficult right from the beginning. I was not used to being on a tight leash. With Penthouse, Uschi and I made the decisions. The art Penthouse art director did not dictate how we photographed the centerfolds and feature layouts.
It lasted a year and half
The relationship eventually became too strained. In that time I did 4 covers, 4 Centerfolds and 4 feature layouts.
The chief editor liked me and how I worked, but the art director and others at the publication did not. It didn’t help that I was featured in several German Photography magazines and a popular TV show during that time.
That probably did not help my popularity with the other photographers who had been working for the magazine for years. I was the subject of a “60 minute style” German documentary TV show, called “Under Our Roof”. The film crew followed us for 4 – 5 days. They were at a shoot I was doing and in the room for the review of a shoot with the art director, and they caught his and my disagreements and discussions.
They interviewed me for hours, and then ran maybe 2-3 minutes of the most inflammatory things I had said. They played up that I was an “American”, and my disagreements on the style of photos with the art director made it seem I liked Penthouse more. (which was actually true…)
We Get Married in Munich
I was ready to go back to the states. I was starting to feel like an outsider in Germany for the first time. I was anyhow making more money off of my private productions that I syndicated internationally than from either Playboy or Penthouse.
By now Christiné and I were in love. We had lived together for over a year and I could not imagine living without her. I asked if she wanted to spend her life with me and she said yes.
We had a Justice of The Peace style ceremony August 17th, 1987,
Back to the USA
In November of 1987, we moved back to Los Angeles. We took a while to acquaint Christine to L.A. and think about the future.
We setup a studio in a friend’s hair salon in Westwood and did make-overs and headshots and portraits, while shooting the occasional magazine layouts. Early in 1989 we were rolling again.
In 1990 we setup a live-in photo studio on La Brea Avenue in L.A. just south of Hollywood. The place needed a lot of work, but it was a great studio to work in.
I continued producing my own centerfold layouts and syndicating them to magazines around the world. We did actor and model headshots, portfolios, and portraits of all types as well as commercial jobs. We worked with PR companies and found ourselves also doing a lot of make-overs for Southern California business women. Christiné would give them a glamorous look and I would photograph them as if they were celebrities or models….. something wild and glamorous just for their personal use. It was a fun time.
1992 Riots and 1994 Earthquake – Time to Leave L.A. — Hello Las Vegas!
In 1994 after two years of unrest in Los Angeles we decided it was maybe time to leave LA. The riots of 1992 and the earthquake in January 1994 took a toll on our studio neighborhood. A friend suggested we look into setting up a photography studio in Las Vegas. We made several trips, found a great house and moved to “Vegas” in June of 1994. We set up a studio just off the Las Vegas strip and went right back into working as we had in LA —The magazine business was slowing but Las Vegas was full of dancers, and escorts and we still did a lot of magazine-shoots the first few years.
1995 And The Internet Was coming quick
I was being frequently approached to sell my photos to a variety of new start-up Internet Adult websites. In 1992 I had licensed large numbers of my Playboy style images from my independent productions to a Japanese company for some of the first digital CDs of that type ever produced.
Having no idea what I was about to get into, I knew I had 100’s of fully released photoshoots and decided to start my own Internet men’s magazine. PIXOTNA (short for pictures of “t and a”) was born. It began a new chapter in our lives.
Like many at the time, we hoped to become Internet millionaires. The first years showed great promise but as the whole world got involved in the Internet and hackers and criminals entered the industry, the promise quickly faded.
Hardcore Porn took over the Internet
The commercial demand for my style of softcore centerfold style photography became less and less. Video and hardcore porn had become the norm. After almost 10 years fighting it out in the “Wild West” of the Adult Internet, shooting less, and less every year, and sitting on the computer way too much, I finally completely “extracted” myself from the Adult Internet business in 2006.
LasVegasStudios.com is born
In 2005 we officially started LasVegasStudios.com. I was so happy to leave the Adult Internet behind. I wanted and needed to again devote more time working together with Christiné, and get back doing my photography full-time. I had registered the domain name LasVegasStudios many years prior and decided I should put it to use.
As cliché, as it sounds, photography has always been my one overriding passion. Making our clients look good, and making them happy is the most rewarding of all. Shooting Portraits, Glamour, Fitness and Boudoir Photography here in Las Vegas is what we enjoy doing more than anything we have ever done.
Behind Every Successful Man is a Woman
At least ONE and for me, many MORE. I want to give credit to the talented women I have worked within my early men’s magazine photography days. Before Christiné did the makeup and hair, there was Gigi, Alicia, Jasmine, Debbi, Debra, and Uschi Borsche. They were Producers, Makeup Artists, Hair Stylists, Wardrobe Stylists, Assistants, friends and “cheerleaders” (and most were all of those) that helped me so much to give my early photography a “look and style” that helped catch Bob Guccione’s attention.
The Models AND CLIENTS
And of course the models. All of the people I have photographed. Especially in the early years. These young women were a special type. They were the girls of the 80s! A new type of woman. They were adventurous. They were brave and independent, and they had goals. It goes without saying they were beautiful on the outside but most were beautiful inside as well and most were very smart.
Men? I have had several very good assistants over the years who I also owe thanks to. There were some that saved my butt more than once.
Without these people in my life, I would be just another guy with a camera. I could not have done it without them.
I thank them.
Time goes quickly and I love to keep busy. When I am not shooting, editing shoots or working on our websites and all of the other responsibilities of self-employment, I am spending as much time as possible keeping our house and yard in order and try to find times for going through my 30+ years of photo archives.
Christiné is a great cook and I enjoy baking. It is relaxing for us. She cooks healthy meals, I like baking desserts. We enjoy our Cabernets, Zinfandels and watching a bit of TV when we can. I am a football fan (Go Ducks!, Raiders, C’mon Rebels!).
I am a bit of a political junkie. I am a moderate-liberal Democrat. I believe it is important to have a strong President but one who also cares about the little people and is honest and ethical.
We don’t have children but have had some great cats during our time together and currently have a couple of rescue cats born in 2006 that are holding up pretty good. In 2014 we got a funny cartoon dog Shih-tzu-something-or-other-mix named Lola that keeps us smiling…. and who has added a new dimension to our lives.
“New Leases on Life” (Getting Old Sucks)
In 2011, after many years of pain from a progressively worsening arthritic hip, I had a total left hip replacement. All the years of schlepping photo equipment and moving furniture around putting together photo sets, followed by years of sitting at the computer had taken its toll.
In 2017 I had the second hip replaced. The surgeries have both been great successes.
In 2017 I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was determined to be from exposure to Agent Orange Herbicide during my 22 months in Vietnam. I am still checked every 6 months for this but for now it is in remission.
In 2020 came my second cancer. I was diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer. I had a sore throat that did not go away. I went to my primary care doctor at the Veteran’s Administration and it turned out I had a substantial tumor starting at the base of my tongue and going into my throat. The Petscan showed it was also into my lymph nodes and I was pretty much terrified. I thought my life was over, or that I would survive only after major surgery, that would leave me disfigured and unable to speak.
The VA oncologist was much more positive. She warned me about the battle I would be facing, but said with chemotherapy and radiation treatments we would beat this thing. It has been a battle for sure, radiation to the head and neck area causes all kinds of issues, but now, I am feeling great. It is the same cancer that Michael Douglas had and what killed Bob Gucionne. According to the VA , this is smoking related and not from Agent Orange. I was a heavy smoker for 20 years, but quit in 1987.
Treatment for throat, head, and neck are much worse than the bladder cancer immuno-therapy. 35 days of radiation treatments to the mouth, throat and neck and 5 weekly infusions of chemo did quite a number on me. It is crazy what it can do to you. Luckily after 2 years almost everything has returned to normal.
I get a checkup every 6 months and an annual CT scan, and there is no sign of recurrent cancer. I have been rehabilitating and have had my Covid vaccinations.
I thank the doctors and the Veteran’s Administration in Las Vegas for their great work and for giving me a “new lease” on life. Since then I have been able to resume a full work schedule and feel great.
2020 – The Pandemic
March of 2020 changed our lives — Not only my throat cancer but the pandemic hit, basically closing down Las Vegas, and causing both Christine and myself to get a flood of cancellations for what had appeared to be a very busy year — Over 2 years before
The story continues
Working to make great photos for our clients is what motivates us and never gets old. Every shoot is a new experience and we love it when our clients challenge us to give them the photos they have always wanted to have done. It keeps us young and always experimenting and trying new things. We are fortunate to be able to do what we do and we appreciate every day.
PUBLISHED WORKS & MISC INFO:
— 1977 – 1995 PENTHOUSE – American, Australian and German editions – 150+ pictorials, 65+ centerfolds, 50+ covers.
— 1978 – 1995 PENTHOUSE – All other International editions – over 65 pictorials, 35 centerfolds, 30 covers.
— 1986 – 87 – PLAYBOY Germany – 9 pictorials, 5 gatefolds, 5 covers.
— 1990 – PLAYBOY Australia – 5 pictorials
— 1978 – PRESENT – over 500 published features, Centerfolds, and covers in leading men’s magazines around the world.
— 1992 – 94 — Heavenly Bodies I, II, III, IV, V, VI CD ROM discs an anthology of early works.
— Various portraits, still life, Calendars, posters and advertising work.
— 4 images from German Penthouse on tour with “German National Art Museum’s” exhibit: “The Nude in Photography”
— Featured: ABC Los Angeles Affiliate: “Eye on L.A.” Eye on Centerfolds, 1981
— Featured: The Girls of PENTHOUSE #6, “The Erotic Photography of John Copeland”, 1982
— Featured: “Ibiza, Sonne, Licht, und Huebsche Maedchen” German COLOR FOTO magazine Feb. 1985
— Featured: “Shooting a PLAYBOY Cover” German PHOTOGRAPHIE magazine, Aug. 1986
— Featured: Profile and Portfolio “Maedchen” German PHOTOGRAPHIE magazine, 1986
— Featured: “Under our Roof” PLAYBOY documentary,German Television 1 ARD, 1987
— Featured: “The Best of John Copeland” Australian PENTHOUSE Feature, Oct. 1994
— Founded: PIXOTNA Productions Inc. Adult Oriented Internet Development Company 1995
— Profiled: EXOTIC DANCER Magazine, Photographer Profile, Summer 1996
— Started: BestAdultContent.com — Adult Internet Content Production and Licensing 1999
— Started: BACgalleries.com — Adult Content Lease Galleries 2000.
— Started: iNetDigital.net — Internet Hosting, Website Design, Programming, 2002
— Started: “Centerfold Photography — 2002” Seminar-Workshops
— Started: “LasVegasStudios.com” — 2006 – Present