Hello there, my name is Stephen Vanasco but most people probably know me by my alias “Van Styles”. A few weeks ago I had stopped by The Hundreds office in downtown L.A. to say hello to my friend Scotty and any other familiar faces that were in the facility. Upon entering the building I saw Bobby who greeted me with his usual familiar smile and had mentioned he wanted to talk to me. We sat down and started to catch up with what has been going on in each others lives and then he brought up the idea if I would be interested in blogging for The Hundreds.
This caught me by a surprise even though we have known each other for a bit now and have worked on a couple Hundreds projects together, just never would have thought he would offer me a platform like this. I have had my own blog for a little over a year now just showcasing my photography and capturing candid moments with friends while going out to events and what not. Apparently it must have caught his eye and has brought me here today with you guys and gals. With this being my first post I wanted to get a little formal introduction out of the way before I proceed to start sharing various moments that I am going to encounter over time. Figure you might as well know a little more about me then the bio write up.
Well lets begin, I was born in Queens,N.Y. but moved to L.A. at a young age. At 12 years old I discovered what I consider my first love which was skateboarding. And when I say it consumed me, that is not a exaggeration. I lived,ate,breathed and slept skateboarding. This was in the early 90′s so it didn’t carry the current positive view most people have on it. Back then it was pretty “uncool” in most of the eyes of society to skate, there was no major monetary success stories from having a career in it,also it was looked at as vandalizing property,people called us “dirty”,etc. I can go on and on but I am sure you get the point. I didn’t care one bit though, skating showed me it’s great to be unique and have individuality. I loved the fact that you can go out your front door and whatever was in front of you was your canvas, you could do it with your friends or just ride alone. No rules,no coaches and no wrong way to go about it. It seemed as long as you were having fun is what seemed to matter.
Over the years the people I met through skateboarding,the culture itself and the specific media for it played a great deal in shaping me into who I am today. Teaching me to always try to look for the different approach to doing anything in life. Since we were considered outcast I think it enabled us to not care how anyone perceived us and to just be ourselves. And being around various artist and musicians only enhanced this mindset, showing the mentality you grow into from skateboarding can be applied to other areas of life.
Being that I loved skating so much of course I dreamed of the idea of being a sponsored skateboarder and being able to do what you love and live a fun life. Over the years I had a few sponsors here or there but nothing really major. I did some contests,skated in some demos and did a couple of tours. I got a decent taste of how much fun that life is, but as time happens you get older and have to do the fun things like a get a job. I was fortunate enough one summer at the age of 21 to be running a skateboard camp for kids. Little did I know having this job was going to play a HUGE roll in a turning point of my life.
I had 3 boys in my camp that happened to be brothers. They were ages 8,11 and 12 at the time and they had known of me through my affiliation with 118 boardshop and skating in their videos. This must have got their father Christian Manns’ attention who befriended me. Well one day turns out the 8 year old informs me of what their father does and I immidiatly went to his older brothers to confirm that he wasn’t just messing with me. It seemed their father owned a adult production company at the time (porn if you wanna be simple about it). When he came to pick them up I had mentioned to him that I learned of his business and he casually laughed it off and openly admitted to it. What intrigued me was he in no way represented what I imagined someone who owned that type of company to be like. I think most people have a very seedy/sleezy character drummed up in their minds of what a male figure who works in porn should be like. But Christian was opposite of that, he was well spoken,intelligent and far too polite to do such a career.
After becoming friends he mentions to me he wants to make a skateboarding porn and had asked if I would be interested in producing it. Now the only thing I had produced up until that point (I was 21 at the time) was skateboard videos for 118. I asked what all was entailed and he said making it authentic, he explained he wanted a actual skateboarder to be apart of it so it didn’t come off as something cheesy to the skate community. So it meant putting together budgets,crew,extras,concepts etc. Being that I already had a interests in production I was all about it and I looked at it as a path not often taken just due to the limited access to go down it. To me it was a adventure that I was curious to see where it led.
So I took on the job and had produced a video called Skate Trixxx which had some acclaim to it. Almost being a cult video for skateboarders at that time giving all of the elements that were involved. It did well so I was given a job at the company which in the beginning it was mostly just re-touching photos for their website. Then one day Christian presents another opporunity, being that I had video experience he asks if I would be interested in directing some movies for him. At this point I was 22 and embraced another opportunity. As you can see deeper down the rabbit hole I went, but I believe life is about seizing opportunities that make sense to you no matter how abnormal they may be to everyone else. So I started directing movies which presented another interesting opportunity that would develop over time.
You see back then I was booking my productions and I had to work with various peoples schedules. A make-up artist, a photographer,the performers and locations. And if one person wasn’t available that day it was back to square one, this got to be pretty annoying. Since I always had a interest in photography and figured I was making money I should just buy my own equipment and teach myself how to take photos, thus making my productions more self contained and a little bit easier to book as my photographer at the time was becoming more and more busy.
So now I was taking photos and extremely fortunate to be getting paid as I learned. Experimenting with on camera flashes,settings,lighting,etc. but always making sure I was learning something new each day. I never read any manuals or books or took any sort of classes. I would always just be experimenting with my camera and asking pointers from friends who I respected as photographers. Even going out skating I would shoot photos of my friends skating as it was a completely different subject then my job and a new opportunity to learn. From there I started doing landscape shots here and there,and stuff that caught my eye. Eventually I realized that the same love and passion I had for skateboarding had come back in the form of the photography. I felt it shared a lot of similarities in the idea you walk outside your door and there are millions of things to shoot,there are no rules, and you make what you want of it.
Then a long came instagram. I had signed up for this app about a year and a half ago but never gave it too much attention until 2 friends of mine advised me to put it to use. One was pro skateboarder Jeron Wilson and the other was a photographer by the name of Yoon. Both had explained to me how this social media app. was a big hit amongst skaters but also that I should be posting my photography on there,especially since I was a enviorment not many people had access too. So I gave it a go and started to build up my followers.
Still working in adult I had stumbled upon a realization about some of the models (porn actresses if you will). I felt most porn photography is very redundant and stale, and I can see a lof of these girls were feeling the same way. So the ones who I had befriended I started doing photo shoots with them outside our usual work settings. I didn’t want them naked showing their most private regions off. Rather keep your clothes on and lets shoot you like that I would say. I figured there are a billion images of these girls naked doing the same kind of posing in the same locations etc. that by shooting them with their clothes on in a more simplistic enviorment I am creating something a little different then what people might be use to from them. Then I sprinkled my own little liking into the mix,photographing these girls in brands that I like. Something about a girl in say a Huf hat or a Diamond t-shirt or wearing Hundreds socks was sexy and appealing to me.
Turns out it was pretty appealing to a lot of people. I started to get some notoriety from my instagram and this timeless formula of pretty girls in cool clothing opened up doors for me to work with such brands as LRG,Sk8Mafia,JSLV,HUF,Deadline Ltd. to name a few. As well as presenting opportunities for me to photograph girls outside my circle of friends who were just interested in my work and wanted to collaborate and create some imagery.Which pretty much brings me to where I am at now. Finding myself becoming more enamored with photography every day wether I am shooting models,landscapes,or just capturing random moments with my friends. I am a big believer that life is all about having one thing and that is what I am having with photography….. fun. Now that this formality is out of the way thanks for taking the time to read this and hope you enjoy my photos.