Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art
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7 North Main Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530
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In Your Face - 70's Gay Porn Stills
February 7 - March 8, 2008

The gallery is proud to present vintage photographs from the 1970's 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 dynamics.

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.

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