Part One: The Beginning
Jay Allan is a photographer / filmmaker based based in Santa Barbara, CA. For the past 24 years his sole focus has been on the art of photographing beautiful naked women. He is recognized as one of the top photographers in the field and his work has been published in over 1000 magazines and art books as well as appeared in movies and TV shows.
Jay began his photographic journey at the highly prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography in 1989 and received his degree in 1992. While at Brooks Jay traveled to Africa to photograph Elephants in their natural world and also to Egypt to photograph it’s ancient civilizations. Upon leaving Brooks Jay began assisting work with several notable photographers such as Dan Wolfe and Annie Leibovitz. Jay got his introduction to big studio productions at Warner Brothers assisting Stephen Vaughan on Lethal Weapon 3 with Mel Gibson.
While working on Lethal 3 Jay was contacted by J. Stephen Hicks, the legendary Glamour Magazine photographer, and began work full time in Stephen’s studio. This mentorship lasted nearly a decade and it was here that Jay met Bob Guccione, creator of Penthouse Magazine, Omni Magazine and Spin Magazine. At Hicks Photo Jay honed his craft shooting while at the same time developing relationships with the head publishers of every top men’s magazine worldwide.
In 1998, near the tail end of his providential relationship with J. Stephen Hicks the Internet started to emerge and Jay headed up a small team to create the DigitalDesire website for Hicks Photo. Through this process Jay started to thread his way through the newly evolving world wide web and meet all the new players in that business. Two key players stood out. Danni Ashe of Danni’s Hard Drive and Beth Mansfield of Persian Kitty.
It was not until Danni Ashe offered Jay the job of running the production studio for her website that Jay began to feel it was time to move on from the Stephen Hicks family. Shortly after DigitalDesire (initially Digital Dreamgirls) was launched Jay decided he would open his own studio in Downtown LA. Located at the old Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery, it was an immense space encompassing an entire upper floor that had once been the cold beer storage for the large brewery.
Immediately after setting up his new studio Jay began shooting for Club, High Society, Hustler and Gallery Magazines. There were shoots four days a week and every new nude model that came into LA visited the Jay Allan Studio. Polaroids were taken, test shots were done, and centerfolds were created. At this time Jay Allan also worked as a consultant for Danni’s Hard Drive, setting up their studio and also shooting layouts for them until he was too overwhelmed with his own productions.
It was not long after that Jay discovered a beautiful young Sikh Indian girl named Sunny Leone (her stage name) whom he believed would be perfect for a Penthouse Centerfold. She was cute, unique, fresh, and brand new. Jay recognized that she was special and sent her test shots to Bob’s assistant Jane Homlish at Penthouse. They pre-approved a shoot almost immediately. The film was well received and Jay’s first ever Penthouse Magazine layout received the Cover, Centerfold, and Pet of The Year for Sunny Leone.
Part Two: The fall of the Magazines
Prior to 2005 the magazine industry was the only place to get regular high quality pictures of beautiful naked women. It was a completely separate industry from Adult Films and there was very little crossover with the talent. Once the internet took hold everything changed and naked women became homogenized into “porn women”. The market for beautifully produced photo shoots with elegant locations, wardrobe, and high end makeup died almost overnight. Budgets dropped from from $10,000 a shoot to $1000. To offset these losses Jay Allan Productions had to close up the large DTLA studio and work solely on locations. It also meant adapting to video as the bandwidth of the internet increased and the “demand” for quality photos diminished. The rapid shift to internet led to a high demand for low quality inexpensive and explicit productions. Everything went more hardcore and the “glamour” market was largely forgotten.
Due to this shift a glut of mediocre content was produced. Industry veterans like Suze Randall, Earl Miller, Carl Watcher, and Hank Londoner, who all shot quality content that was more expensive to produce either shuttered their studios or cut way back to just a couple shoots a month.
This went on for a decade and the future of high quality nudes was grim when a site called X-Art was launched featuring very high production quality video and nudes. Shot in a sort of romantic art-sex style, utilizing DSLR lenses for a cinema look it was in instant success. This site proved that high quality content could be produced and that there was still a market for it.
Jay teamed up with J. Stephen Hicks to launch a new website called Babes.com for an overseas client that had recently acquired many of the adult companies. Jay Allan, along with his brother Jeff Allan, Charles Lightfoot, and Mark Lit (who had taken over Jay’s position at Hicks Photo shortly after Jay left) produced all the shoots for this new website for it’s first couple years. Babes was a very successful site and was praised by many of the top industry executives as being the most beautiful Adult Content available. Unfortunately it was not to last.
J. Stephen Hicks passed away unexpectedly in Malibu in early 2013. Suze Randall’s daughter Holly Randall wrote this beautiful tribute: Sad Sad News . Behind him Stephen left a legacy of incredible images, a beautiful family and a team of photographers to carry in in his style.
To be continued…
Film Strip images courtesy of Robert Sebree Photography.