The Model Mayhem interview: Viva Van Story

New Jersey-based photographer Viva Van Story takes her pinup art seriously. For her, the art form harkens back to a simpler era when female sexuality wasn’t overtly explicit—instead, it was playfully subtle and coquettishly seductive. This love for the time of fedora-wearing gun molls has spurred Viva to become one of the top pinup photographers in the world: She’s published two books and her images have been featured in many popular publications, including Bizarre Magazine, Tattoo and Deadbeat Magazine. Viva took some time to chat with us about her introduction to photography, her new photo book “Viva Van Story’s Sheer” and her affection for vintage voyeurism.

– MM Edu

Photographer: Viva Van Story

MM Edu: How and when did you get started as a photographer?

Viva Van Story: I actually modeled for a fellow photographer, John Santerineross, about 15 years ago when he lived in New Jersey. I was just a student at Parsons School of Design back then, and I put my paints and pastels away and gave it a shot—best choice of my career.

MM Edu: Who or what inspires you and your art?

VVS: Revealing something without showing it all inspires me; for example, showing a woman in a moment of desire, portraying a fantasy and role-playing. What is she showing the voyeur? What kind of secrets is she revealing, and what is she holding back?

There is something distinctly seductive about leaving something to the imagination, about choosing what to reveal and what to conceal. For the voyeur, there is a tension in catching a glimpse of skin, a feeling of seeing something forbidden.

MM Edu: Where did your love of pinup come from?

VVS: I think I’ve just always loved them. I’ve been collecting as far back as I can remember. It’s like those special antiques you have that you just can never throw away, even if they’re collecting dust in your basement—you still love them and they never get old.

Photographer: Viva Van Story; Model: Mosh

“There is something distinctly seductive about leaving something to the imagination, about choosing what to reveal and what to conceal.”

MM Edu: You manage to capture a cool retro vibe while also adding a modern twist, like latex outfits. Describe your style, from what influences it to how you’re able to combine those elements so seamlessly.

VVS: Well, it’s important for me to have my own particular stamp on my pieces, and not just recreate other pinup artists’ work. Even if I start it out looking traditional, I look to see how I can change it to make it more interesting to the viewer.

MM Edu: There’s also playfulness to it—full of sexuality without the need to be sexually explicit.

VVS: I do think I have a fun sense of humor and I do love sexy images. Everyone loves to laugh or feel turned on, and if I can do that, then I’ve made a successful image.

Photographer: Viva Van Story

MM Edu: Your work has evolved from pinup to fetish, and you often push boundaries and delve into some darker places. Tell us about that evolution.

VVS: I love pinup, but I wanted to tell a different kind of story: a story of a woman’s deepest, darkest fantasies. My fetish images represent my own secret desires or love stories. The more I understand what I’m trying to say about my own desires, the better the image (and I never want to fake it). Honestly, being an artist means you use a little of yourself in your art; otherwise, you’re just hitting a button.

I also don’t want to limit myself by playing it safe or sticking to only one style. My work can show up in art books, photo contests, fetish galleries show or even pop up in those dark places that many of my fellow artists won’t ever venture into. I want to work with the unexpected models and transform them into the unexpected. I never want to make a remake, and I never want people to be able to predict my next move. After all, being a good storyteller is what photography is really about.

Photographer: Viva Van Story

“I have a fun sense of humor and I do love sexy images. Everyone loves to laugh or feel turned on, and if I can do that, then I’ve made a successful image.”

MM Edu: What’s it like in the studio with Viva Van Story?

VVS: I’m very laid-back, but I am also very professional with a good sense of humor, too. I’m a harmless flirt who knows how to make women love themselves just enough to get them to show the camera how beautiful they are. I have professional models I work with, and I offer my work as a service to non-models and newer models looking to get a bit of a push into the right direction. I’ve published many non-models and first-time models. I like to think everyone feels very comfortable working with me. And considering that a large amount of my calendar is returning clients, I think that only proves it.

MM Edu: Your work has been featured in many books and you have an extensive list of credits, including your own solo book, but what do you consider your major achievements to date?

VVS: It’s been a great couple of years, and I’ve done seven group photo books and now I’m on my second solo book (all within two years).

I just released my second solo book, “Sheer.” After “Viva’s Pinups: Bullet Bras and Backseat Betties,” my first solo,  started doing well, I went ahead and started shooting for the next one knowing I want to release a new book two years later. I’m very excited to see how this one does since it feels a little more personal then the last. “Sheer” was based mostly on collaborated work and various models that wanted to play with my favorite fetishes.

Korero Books publishing my work was my most thrilling achievement to date. I’m very lucky to have someone believe in me this much. I’m grateful for them and the fans that have helped in this success—some of them have followed me since day one.

Photographer: Viva Van Story; Model: Mosh

Honestly, being an artist means you use a little of yourself in your art; otherwise, you’re just hitting a button.”

MM Edu: Let’s take a step back and talk about “Viva’s Pinups.” What was the process for creating your own book, from the painstaking effort required to select which images to include to the message you wanted the book to convey?

VVS: “Viva’s Pinups” was a large collection of 13 years of earlier work. You get my work as a whole here from hot rods and traditional pinup to hardcore fetish images.

Viva's Pinups: Bullet Bras and Backseat Betties
Photographer: Viva Van Story

MM Edu: What can we expect from “Sheer,” and how does it differ from your previous book?

VVS: In “Sheer,” I pick up where I left off in “Viva’s Pinups” and I take it to the next level—OK, so I get even naughtier in “Sheer.” What do you expect from someone who’s been doing this for 15 years now?

While “Viva’s Pinups” has all my sides and styles I love, “Sheer” is based purely on naughty bits and pieces of tease. This is all me! My heart and soul went into this. I’ve revealed a lot of secrets here.

I think Korero Books describes it best: It’s a collection of Viva’s latest explorations of her dark, retro and erotic take on the world of pinup. Themed around the idea of transparency, from nylon to latex, silk to plastic and muslin to glass, Viva’s brilliantly lit shots of the iconic models on the scene (Mosh, Angela Ryan and Eden Berlin, to name just three) are distinguished by a host of astonishing new locations, atmospheric retro moods and Viva’s boundary-pushing eroticism.

Viva Van Story's Sheer
Photographer: Viva Van Story

MM Edu: You mention using transparency, from nylon to latex, silk to plastic and muslin to glass. Can you give some details on how/why you used them?

VVS: I didn’t want my book to be predictable – full of sheer panties or girls with stockings – I wanted to hit all the little glimpses you catch sometimes as the voyeur. I peek at someone’s front looking into a mirror or a beautiful girl pulling up her sheer dress, or girls under glass tables looking through the glass. I’m hitting on some different ideas of sheer, rather than the obvious ones.

MM Edu: Do any particular shots stand out from an emotional perspective?

VVS: The images I’ve taken that repeat a memory in my own fetish play. I hope to bring out those thoughts in others. The times were you felt the highest you’ve felt. Those are the emotions I hope to get from my viewers. Not everyone will understand but the ones that do will enjoy them.

MM Edu: Where can we find your books and keep up with your latest work?

VVS: Both “Viva’s Pinups” and “Sheer” can be purchased directly from me for signed copies. Otherwise, you can find it on Amazon and it will be distributed through the publishers to all their bookstore connections.

I post most of my new work on my MM, and often on Twitter or Tumblr, and I update often too.

MM Edu: You mentioned MM and you’re actually one of the earliest members on Model Mayhem, MM#179. What does MM mean to you?

VVS: Well, the Internet has really made things happen for us photographers: it allowed us to make connections we may never have had the chance to make. I still can’t believe I was one of the first few to get onto MM.

MM Edu: Thank you for sharing your wonderful work with us.

VVS: Thank you so much for the interview. xoxo

You can buy copies of Sheer and Viva’s Pinups from Amazon, or email VVS directly for signed copies.

MM Edu

MM Edu brings you tips, advice, and knowledge in modeling, photography, post-production, style/makeup, and Using MM. The expertise comes from our beautiful and brilliant members!

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