We asked Paul Culver to share some of his favorite photo shoots and models from his work over the last 22 years. With more than 700 model shoots, his work is quite impressive.
Paul says he’s always had a camera and started shooting models in 1997. He began photographing his friends when living in California and his craft grew from there. Paul started shooting Adelante models at a time when most of the work was done from film that had to be developed. Now all is done digitally.
In the beginning Paul says he would seek out anyone attractive to shoot. “Then I realized everyone was shooting White Guys, so I concentrated on Latino Guys and going to Latin clubs and working with people in the Latino community.”
Tony Hernandez: Tony had been doing go-go dance work and we decided to shoot some pictures. It was his first photo shoot. He brought his mother and father with him to the shoot. His dad helped hold the light reflector. It’s great when a model brings someone supportive. The only time I’ve had a problem is jealous boyfriends, they can ruin a photo shoot.
Tony brought the military cap and trousers for the shoot. We went to the beach for those shots. The one with his shirt over his shoulder and arm raised were taken at sunset. What makes Tony a good model is he looks good without trying. He’s not trying to do any kind of fancy pose, has not been to modeling school. He’s just Tony and that’s it. This shoot was done in the days of film, so we had to wait for a week or so to get the photos to see how they came out. They were great. Actually, a few years later we did another photo shoot. His mom came to this one as well.
Jose Espinosa and Jose Valdivia: I needed a cover for the Adelante February Valentine’s Day edition. I was trying to get something romantic. I told them both I was going for the boyfriend kind-of-look and they were willing to try it even though they were not dating or anything. They were both dancers in the clubs and knew each other. They were a little bit shy about doing some of the romantic stuff. I was worked to get them comfortable together. They both have good abs and they had chemistry with each other. In the shoot, you might notice, they were just having a good time. We did the shoot in a hotel room and we were drinking a bottle of Champagne too. Maybe that helped. I think the pictures standing in the shower and in the jacuzzi are the best shots.
These are some favorites:
Alejo Ospina: This was Alejo’s first photo shoot and it was in Medellin, Columbia. A friend had picked me up from the airport and he had this guy, his boyfriend Alejo with him. I told them I was looking for people to shoot and asked if I could shoot him. He is quite famous now and big time down here in Columbia. After that picture ran in Adelante, I was contacted by companies in the United States that wanted him to do work and modeling. He has a good look and has a great smile. He is one I can joke with and his smile would come out and I’d snap a photo before it changed. We took the pictures there with his boyfriend present. He looks very sexy in the photos on the bed. Alejo has a degree in chemical engineering.
Frank: He is from the Dominican Republic. Someone contacted me showed me a picture of Frank and I thought he was beautiful. I found his Facebook page and started talking to him and a year later he decided to do it after he saw some of my other photos. I did the shoot in the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo and on the North Shore in a place called Rio San Juan. I rented a house out there with a pool and close to the beach. He brought me to a beach with very few people called Playa Presciosa. We took photos there and in the house by the swimming pool.
In California most Latinos are from Mexico and Central America. Frank is more Moreno and he is just beautiful. I believe there is beauty in all the various shades of people, from the very light skin to the very dark skin. Frank has an amazing body and a very handsome face.
Jeison Reyes: Jason also turned me down in the beginning. He works as a manager in a bar in the Dominican Republic. He is a handsome Moreno with an amazing body. The beach shots are done up north on the coast. Some of the house shots are right in the middle of Santo Domingo. The photo where he is leaning on the old wall is in Santo Domingo outside of one of the old churches there in the Zonal Colonial.
Jason Medina: The photo with him in the red swim suite is at Stern Grove Park in San Francisco. The other photos are indoors. He is a Los Angeles’ guy and was up in San Francisco during that time. That picture in the red shorts got used in a Facebook group for picture collectors with more than 12,000 members, so he got quite popular. Jason is a great model with flawless skin. He is well defined, not a huge muscle guy but nicely toned. That is probably the most popular look on a model.
Dominic: I met him one time and we did a photo shoot and I’ve not seen him since. I thought this guy was gorgeous, he was from Salinas, California. He came that day with his skateboard that he was using to get around San Francisco. The shots with the skateboard came out very normal because it was natural for him. This was in 2011. I have not heard from him and I’d like to work with him again. He has a natural looking body. His skin was flawless. This shoot was in San Francisco at Stern Groove Park.
Adelante: What do you look for in a model?
Paul: Some type presence. Guys with a nice body are obvious choices. Mostly I’m looking for someone with presence, does not need to have a defined body at all. The model’s face is the most important thing. If you’re going to take a photo with someone with their shirt off, it is good if they have a nice body.
Adelante: Was it hard to get started in your work?
Paul: At first. It was difficult for me, but I did it. I got shut down many times, but I also had a lot of people that said yes. I would go to a bar and try to find the cutest guy in the bar and ask to take pictures of him. Photographers don’t always have the best reputations, so people are a little bit weary. As I built up my portfolio, and people could see my work, it became easier.
Adelante: What makes a photoshoot sexy? Is it the model, their body type, face structure, the setting, what they wear, your mood, or?
Paul: Well, I think you can make any photo shoot sexy. Almost everyone is a little bit nervous in the beginning of a shoot and need a bit of reassurance. I spend a lot of time getting them to relax. I look for how natural a person is. I like to catch photos of them that are natural. The people who make the best models and photos are those who are confident without being cocky. You run into all kinds of models, some who are super shy who are hard to take pictures of and those who think they are the best thing since sliced bread. Some who are not that confident get in front of a camera and their face changes. But those who are confident don’t change much.
Adelante: Can anyone model and take a good picture?
Paul: I think you can work with anybody. If you get people relaxed enough, you can make anyone look good. I always say you can’t get a good picture unless you take a lot of pictures. For instance, Vanity Fair may take 500 pictures, like I do and only one goes on the cover. We don’t need all the pictures to come out perfect, be we are looking for the best one. Sometimes the model just needs to make a slight change, and you have a good picture.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that not all people can take a good picture. Not everyone is going to make the cover of the magazine, but everyone can take a good picture.
We don’t see many picture books in print because of the nature of printing and the fact that the internet has made looking at photos immediate and accessible. With that said, Paul Culver’s work would be awesome displayed in a large print coffee table book. Hopefully that will happen one day.