Interview: Van Styles Behind & Away From The Lens
Words can't express my appreciation for this interview below. I had the pleasure to meet a huge inspiration of mine 3 years ago when interning at The Hundred's location. Had always been a fan of not just the concept of his work but the quality & hidden stories when seen. of course a hot girl caught my attention but as a photographer I found ways to divide the thoughts of lust & art. When I first met Van Styles he had recently became a exclusive blogger/photographer for The Hundred's blog & the introduction to that was his first release party for his V/sual Apparel brand & of course a collection of photos. The event was presented as a art gallery right next door to the original RSWD location before they expanded.
I not only attended the event as a fan but due to Umi & Van's relationship Umi saw me as the proper candidate for someone to run the gallery for a few days after the opening event & understanding my fanship for not only photography but for Van himself. Since then Van & I have recognized each other on a face to face, event to event bases & to be completely honest I was just happy to be recognized even if my name wasn't remembered. That's how much of a fan I not only was but still am & that slightly sums up my humbleness that Van would take anytime out of his schedule to answer a few questions for a platform that gets more out of the deal than it would bring to Van himself. That says a lot about him as a human & ever since he has accepted the request I've wanted to share some insight on Van Styles behind & away from the lens.
WHERE DOES THE NAME “VAN STYLES” COME FROM?
VS: Van Styles was a name I came up when I had to make an alias during my time as a director of adult movies. Van came from my last name being Vanasco. Styles was a group from the valley I was listening to a lot called Styles of Beyond.
NOT TO EXPOSE YOUR HIDDEN GEMS BUT WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOOT IN LA?
VS: My favorite places to shoot in L.A. aren't really hidden. I love people watching,observing human nature so I am usually just walking around downtown,Hollywood,K-Town and Venice. There is something to just getting out and observing life.
HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT TOOK FOR YOU TO BE COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE WITH WHAT YOU WERE SHOOTING OR DID YOU JUST PUT IT OUT TO THE WORLD & LET THE INTERNET DO THE REST?
VS: I started shooting in 2002. This was prior to Facebook,myspace etc. so I had some time to just develop my shooting styles. By the time twitter, Instagram, etc rolled out I was already comfortable with what I have been creating. I just figured I am gonna share images that I like. There wasn't this pressure or worry of what will people think.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE TRANSITION FROM SHOOTING FOR PERSONAL USE TO SHOOTING AS A CAREER? WHEN DID YOU FEEL CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT THIS IS WHAT YOU WILL BE DOING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?
VS: Oddly enough that transition from shooting personally to a career is very thin. Given that I have my own brand and primarily create pieces for that with my photography. I do work with other brands on projects but it is usually a understanding of each others roles in creating. They allow me to do what I do. I knew photography would be something that I would do for the rest of my life. With or without success. I think when the first few years passed with V/SUAL I started to feel this is something that has some legs.
SURE THERE MAY BE TOO MANY TO RECALL BUT IF ANY GOOD ONES COME TO MIND, WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE MODEL TO SHOOT WITH & WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE REASON BEHIND IT BEING YOUR TOP OR ONE OF YOUR TOP SHOOTS?
VS: I don't really have a favorite model to shoot with per say. I believe they all bring something unique to my lens. I would say that one of my shoots that stands out was with Tianna Gregory in a helicopter 1,500 feet above L.A. Merely because it mixed model and landscape as well as being such a unique visual that won't be replicated in the same way.
HOW DO YOU STORAGE ALL YOUR PHOTOS? & HOW FAR BACK DOES YOUR CATALOGUE GO IN TERMS OF YEARS?
VS: Hard drives on hard drives on hard drives. My catalogue goes back to about 2005 I think. I have some raid systems and for my film I just have binders. I wish someone explained how to properly catalogue and store your photos from the start. Live and learn.
I KNOW YOU HAVE VARIOUS CAMERAS YOU SWITCH FROM TIME TO TIME BUT IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE ONE, LITERALLY ONE (WHETHER YOU OWN IT OR NOT) WHICH CAMERA WOULD THAT BE?
VS: I would say my Leica MP 35mm film. In the sense of just one camera that would be it.
WHAT OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS INSPIRE YOU? ANY PERSONAL FAVORITES?
VS: I get inspired from the older cats who have been at it for awhile. Fred Lyons ,Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark, Ari Marcopoulos to name a few.
ONE PERSON YOU’D LOVE TO SHOOT & ONE PLACE YOU’D LOVE VISIT & SHOOT?
VS: This is a question I don't have an answer to. I don't really dwell on who I wish I could shoot. As for traveling there are too many places to name.
PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING WE VIEW NOWADAYS IS IN SOME SORT OF WAY A IMAGE. WHETHER IT’S ON OUR PHONES, COMPUTERS, TV, WHATEVER. SO IF THIS ISN’T TOO MUCH OF A REACHING IN THE DEEP PARTS OF THE MIND QUESTION - HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED A PHOTO THAT YOU WISH YOU PRESSED THE BUTTON OF? IF SO, WHAT WAS THE PHOTO OF?
VS: There is that saying you ask most photographers what was the best photo you ever took and they will say the one I didn't have my camera for. Life has so many things going on at once it can be overwhelming at times to want to capture it all. I have too many memories for this answer.
THOUGH YOU CLEARLY CAN’T RUN FROM WHAT WHERE YOU STARTED WITH PHOTOGRAPHY SHOOTING ADULT FILMS, DO YOU SOMETIMES AS A ARTIST FEEL MISUNDERSTOOD OR FEEL LIKE PEOPLE PUT YOU IN THIS BOX OF “HE ONLY SHOOTS GIRLS NAKED.” THOUGH I’M SURE YOU’VE HEARD THESE COMMENTS & HAVE BEEN ASKED THIS TYPE QUESTION BEFORE. WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT REACTION TO SOMEONE IF THEY MADE THAT TYPE COMMENT TO YOU TODAY?
VS: Regardless of what you do in life there is going to be that initial layer people choose to see. Early on I started noticing that comment in regard to my subject matter at the time. I just took the situation into my own hands. I love photography plain and simple. I love everything about it. I love pushing myself to learn how to shoot different things. So I just stayed at it learning to shoot landscape,aerial,street,etc. Continued to showcase my growth in other areas. If someone were to make that same comment today I wouldn't think much of it. They are choosing to look at that initial layer to my work and nothing else.
HOW IS V/SUAL APPAREL GOING FOR YOU? WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE PERKS & OBSTACLES OF TURNING FROM THE TITLE OF A PHOTOGRAPHER TO NOW ALSO A CREATIVE DIRECTOR & OWNER OF YOUR OWN BRAND?
VS: V/SUAL is doing really well. Three years strong and continuing to grow. It has been a pretty interesting learning some of the ins and outs of a clothing industry. In a great way though, I love being around now environments and learning something different. It is really fun to develop a concept and see it come into the warehouse as a physical form. I would say the perks are being in total control of my company, traveling, working with other photographers and models on collabs and just seeing people out in the street rocking it! As obstacles go just time management. For me there is personal time, family time with my girl and daughter, photography time, office time, design time, etc. It is a lot and just learning how to roll with it day by day.
I REMEMBER YOU TELLING ME YOU’RE TAPPING INTO MORE CUT N SEW PIECES. DO YOU SEE YOUR BRAND AS SOMETHING THAT WILL COMPETE WITH OTHER BRANDS IN THE STREETWEAR INDUSTRY OR DO YOU BELIEVE V/SUAL TAPS INTO A DIFFERENT MARKET & MAYBE EVEN A DIFFERENT CONSUMER?
VS: Starting with Fall '16 V/SUAL will be launching its cut n sew pieces which is really exciting. I try not to worry about competing with other brands but try to focus more on what we are doing. To say V/SUAL is different would be spot on in the sense it is the first company inspired by photography. I have roots in skating and streetwear but the base of the brand stands on the art form of photography. Our products have a great reach into the streetwear market, skateboard market, mens market as well photographic. I feel proud of this.
LASTLY, WHAT’S AT THE END OF IT ALL FOR VAN STYLES? IF THERE IS ONE WHAT IS IT THAT THOUGH YOU’VE DONE SO MUCH, WHAT IS YOUR V/SION OF SUCCESS IN YOUR OWN MIND & WITH YOUR OWN ART?
VS: The end of it all? I wish I knew! I never had a plan of where I was going to be 5 years ago. I just knew making photos made me happy and I wanted to do that as much as I could. Here I am now. Ideally I just want to look back on life and be happy that I lived it as best I could. Made some great friends, created some great memories, loved and supported my family and hopefully leave behind some photos that people might enjoy. As for my vision of success is just being able to stand behind what you create years from now. Not just in that contemporary moment but when you are sixty. In the end know you did it for yourself and no one else.
Another thank you to Van for taking the time out! Can't wait to see what's to come!