Pinup Provocateur Viva Van Story

If you don’t know Viva Van Story, I’m afraid that you’ve been missing out. Get to know the outrageously talented pinup photographer from New Jersey, renowned for her work across the world, especially New York and New Jersey, as she recently took some time out to answer some questions from us.

Funny enough, as I met Viva Van Story her enthusiasm for this interview had me wondering just what type of interview we’d be in store for. She assumed that we’d bombard her with questions off the bat. Her first correspondence was to ask me where they were. That took me back a second, but only a second and as we got into it further, my excitement and gratitude only grew. She was so down to earth and approachable, how could it not be a good interview?

So with that, we introduce the 50’s style, Rockabilly extraordinaire that is Viva Van Story.

With all the fantastic work she’s done over the years, you can’t help but wonder how she got into the art which she’s mastered so gracefully. And the answer pays homage to her childhood.

What was your first camera?
My mother bought me my first camera, Canon EOS 300, after I stated to her how much I wanted to take up photography. I shot only in Black and White film for my first few years while experimenting with Photography.

That however was a long time ago. And she successfully made the lead from child-hobbyist to professional with a 13 year career to show for it.

You’ve been doing this for nearly 13 years. How did you get into pin-up photography?
I spent my first 6 years just developing my style. My first real pin-up was a girl I saw while attending a Gene Vincent show. She was a lifestyler and I was mesmerized by her and approached her about shooting with me. After posting the photos online, a whole scene I never knew of came to life before my eyes. I was instantly obsessed with it

and she still is. But don’t get it wrong. She’s not all about work, mostly but not all about work, she takes time out to do what the average person of me and you would do, take snapshots of family and friends and they don’t reflect her professional style at all.

Does your personal collection of pics (of friends and family) mirror your professional style?
Probably no, my professional style is based so much styling, props, location and lighting. My snapshots look like snapshots if the details of my work do not apply.

With that said, when asked about her free-time

I think I pretty much speak for all Deviants when I say thank you for putting your work on there and elsewhere online. Without you, the internet just wouldn’t be as pretty. Between preparing for shoots and, taking all the marvelous pics and then editing the pics, where do you find time to yourself out there in the way that you do?
Not a lot of free time not based on my work. I call myself a professional multi-tasker because I’m always doing more than one job at the same time. I like staying busy and current. I never want to be forgotten so I have to keep them coming. But whenever I do find some time I love to vintage shop, see Rockabilly bands in the city, eat at some favorite spots and watch some inspirational independent movies. It’s a lot of work making a living off your artwork and it’s important to me to try to stay ahead of game.

How much thought generally goes into a shoot? How long does it take you to come up with your shoot ideas?
It can involve heavy planning, shopping and building to just going with the energy of the model and myself during the shoot. Each shoot has its own purpose for me.

You’re more than happy to provide models with their full attire, which I’m assuming includes make-up as well as the clothes. Do you enjoy getting to choose the outfits of your models or is it more exciting when they bring their own flavour to the table?
Yes, I provide almost everything for my shoot. I just got tired of not being able to plan out my sets and this way I have more control of the image. I also specialize in Pinup Photography as a service so many times I am working with girls who do not have the period correct clothing. I’ve developed a great relationship with many designers who have perfected their designs to match clothing of the 50s. I’m also a big collector of vintage myself. I do love working with other vintage collectors as well who can bring something unique to my images.

What has been your favorite shoot of all time?
That’s a hard one. I’ve had so many great shoots to say just one was the best of them. I guess shooting at the famous Neon Graveyard in Vegas or shooting in the Madonna Room in New York City’s, Chelsea Hotel was very memorable for me. I love shooting at places that hold so many stories.

and so with a neat segue by yours truly onto the subject of body, after all we are, I asked the teasing question whether or not it’s harder to photograph models with tattoos?

Is it harder to photograph models with tattoos? Are there any differences between shooting models with and without ink?
Only if they’re bad tattoos.

she said with a wink to-boot.

You’ve captured a ton of models featuring some awesome ink, are there any tattoos that have stuck in your memory?
Masuimi Max has the most amazing back piece and I also love Sabina Kelley’s sleeves. Crash also has “Evil Cunt” written on her back thighs. Most of the girls I work with stick to the traditional tattoos that you see in the Rockabilly Scene and those pieces are best for Pin-up shooting.

Hold up, so if we’re talking about traditional ’50’s pieces, surely that highlights the legends of the era Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone to name but a few.

You mentioned traditional tattoos. We’re all lucky enough to look back and have a lot more knowledge about the area and the changes that book place then. How does it feel to see the work that Sailor jerry, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone inspired on your subjects? Does such colorful work make it easier to capture your inspiration and produce?
I am a sucker for traditional work. I love hearing that people are using my work to inspire their tattoos. I still get a kick out of those completely covered in ink people in the black and white photos from the past. Could you imagine the stress of getting work looking like that back then?

Viva Van Story doesn’t just get to photograph stunning pin-ups with equally stunning tattoos, she’s a canvas herself

How about your tattoos?
I have both arms done and my thighs. Aaron Bellve of Totem Tattoo in Williamsport, PA did my vintage pistols on my thighs and one sleeve of traditional work and Michelle Myles of Dare Devil Tattoo in NYC has been solely working on my other arm doing a sleeve completely covered in tropical/island themed tattoos with a hula pinup girl, mermaid and octopus etc.

Glad to find out you’re a tattoo lover, did you find coming up with the designs you wanted for your tattoos easier than the concepts for photography? Or it is much harder to come up with your shoot concepts?
I let my tattoo artists do the drawings for the tattoo designs. I only steer them in the right direction of my taste and theme. I never want to interfere with what an artist does and I like knowing they are putting something on me that they also love.

With someone with so much access to tattoos, you have to wonder what makes body art beautiful for Viva Van Story, especially still-so after all this time

What makes body art beautiful for you?
I love art so seeing it on the skin is visually beautiful to me. It’s like a story book on some people. I do love a good story.

Robert Del Valle has said that Viva Van Story is the successor to Bunny Yeager,a prestigious accolade no matter how look at it and yet, she remains humble when she talks about it

Robert Del Valle said you’re the successor to Bunny , how does that make you feel? Was she an inspiration? What other inspirations do you have?
Bunny Yeager is the Queen of Pinup Photography and shot one the best known pin-ups, Betty Page. Being compared to her is probably the biggest compliment someone could give me. I’ve worked very hard to get where I’m at, so it’s most satisfying when others give me such a huge compliment by comparing me to a legend and idol. I think Bunny Yeager is most pinup photographer’s inspiration but it’s a base to start when you first work with pinups. I definitely want my own identity in my industry though. I get inspiration by a lot of things that are not retro or vintage at all but I bring them into my work and make them unique for my own style. That own style currently being captured in magic moments with a Canon 5D Mark II, but she continues I wish to have more time in my future to play with film cameras again and work with a medium format camera.
Another Canon?
I do love my Canon Cameras.

So for those of you that have come across Viva, you’ll notice that she’s quite prolific online, twitter, deviantART, tumblr, LiveJournal and so many more.You have to wonder why she continues to do it having reached this level of success.

You’ve embraced social networking and social media in a way that no many do. Most dump their DeviantArt accounts after getting big, but you’ve stuck around and are inspiring people with your work every day, how does that make you feel? What’s it like to be in such a large community when you’re already such a huge and talented artist?
The best advice I got early in my years was show everyone your work. Not everyone will find your website; you have to bring them to the door sometimes. I’ve made some amazing connections with networking. Many images I have would not have been made without the help from others I have met through networking.

and how she finds the time for it

I think I pretty much speak for all Deviants when I say thank you for putting your work on there and elsewhere online. Without you, the internet just wouldn’t be as pretty. Between preparing for shoots and, taking all the marvelous pics and then editing the pics, where do you find time to yourself out there in the way that you do?
Not a lot of free time not based on my work. I call myself a professional multi-tasker because I’m always doing more than one job at the same time. I like staying busy and current. I never want to be forgotten so I have to keep them coming.

So with her style so ingrained in retro, how did Viva feel about the recent closure of the Kodachrome factory?

Do you feel we’ll be losing something when we lose film cameras? I’m simply someone that loves photography, hence my excitement and honor to get to talk to you. But I must admit I was saddened when with the close of the last Kodachrome factory.
I agree we should hold on to some things that have such a powerful look like film does. I consider a lot of film photographers better artists for doing it this way and staying true. It’s an expensive craft.

NYBodyArt would also like to wish Viva Van Story a huge congratulations on her book deal with Korero, here’s what she had to say on the matter

Congratulations on your book deal with Korero. Was it a goal of yours or was it something that came out of nowhere?
Doing a solo book, “Viva’s Pinups” and being signed by a professional publisher like Korero Books was my utmost goal as an artist. Having someone invest money in your art and distributing it all over the world has to be the most amazing experience I have ever had. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever really felt supported. I can’t tell you how emotional it was to receive my first copy. When I met Korero Books, I was shopping for a publisher who understood my direction. After viewing the other books that they had published, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it with me. The experience has been successful and I am now signing another contract with Korero Books to do another solo book themed on “Sheer”. The book will be released in July 2011, just one year later from my first book, “Viva’s Pinups”. But she’s not new to doing books “I did a few group books this year; I think 2010 was my best year as an artist and I am so very lucky to have this support and my fans are wonderful. The group book with Korero Books is “Kustom Kamera” which came out in Sept. 2010. Pretty proud to be in such a Lifestyle kind of book with some of my favorite photographers I admired in my early years shooting, like David Perry and Chas Ray Krider. Also coming out is a group book with Goliath Books out of Berlin, Germany on a collection of artists who did images of “Latex Fashion Photography” which will come out this year.

As a British fan in the UK, I couldn’t resist but ask if we’ll get the chance to see her here

This is an indulgence question I thought I’d slip in there. I’m a Londoner (British), have you done any work here? Are you often asked to travel for work? Or do you like to keep it local?
I am a traveler. I travel as much as I can. London is on my list to go visit one day. I think it’s very important as an artist to get out there and see different things to shoot and work with people in different parts of the world. Berlin, Germany and Hawaii were my favorite places to visit and I hope to go back soon.

I had a lot of fun with Viva and I hope that came across in the interview of which I was honored to conduct. She’s an amazing lady and an amazing artist too. If you’d like to see Viva’s work for yourself lookout for a fun new gallery show in New York city soon.

Is there anything in particular that our audience (body art enthusiasts) should be looking forward to from you?
Hopefully a fun new gallery show in New York City. Haven’t had a good one since CBGBs was still around, oh the good old days.

Viva is also working with several magazines on a regular basis, you can check those out too: Traditional Rod and Kulture, Leg Show, Retro Lovely, CKD/Ol Skool, Cycle Source, Deadbeat, and Dice Magazine. She’s also been working with Alt Exclusive for their website. And you can catch her on your basic social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Deviant Art, Tumblr, etc. You can get signed copies of her book and prints by contacting her directly at [email protected] or you can buy her books directly from Korero Books website or other book sellers.

Also note, Viva Van Story is often on the lookout for new pinup models, so head her over to the booking section on her website. No experience necessary.

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About Paul

Writer, tattoo enthusiast and all round bloke. Always available for a chat or discussion!

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