Above: FH Favorite Dave August from his shoot with Greg for Paragon Men.
Whenever I post about Playgirl Magazine, or a Playgirl model I get emails. Playgirl holds a special place in the hearts of so many. I have recounted my own experience with the magazine on FH a few times. (read my account HERE:) Last month I began a new series looking back at the history of the magazine with a profile of Playgirl model Gene Carter (HERE:) When thinking of who I could profile next a friend suggested what should have been the obvious to me, photographer Greg Weiner.
Greg Weiner has been working in NYC for the past 25 years, first as an assistant and then as a freelance photographer. He has worked with HBO, Showtime, book publishing, and many editorial magazines. Greg says he has worked for Playgirl for the last 19 years and is hoping to make it until at least 20. Greg is looking to launch a book and a show of his work the last two decades with Playgirl.
It was amazing to me when researching Greg's work to see how many shots I have loved over the years were his work. From actors I crushed over to Playgirl models to some of the most popular men on the net. Although my original intent was to look at Playgirls past, Greg's talent not only is a part of the Magazines rich history, it is also ever present in the here and now and most importantly, the future of magazine.
Thanks to Greg Weiner for sharing his work, and most importantly, the last twenty years with FH!
Above: Matt Bomer (From his time on Guiding Light).
Above: All My Children's Cameron Mathison.
FH: Prior to joining Playgirl in the early 90’s you were working as a commercial photographer in NY and I know worked with many stage productions. Can you share any stories of any jobs or celebrities that stand out from this time period?
Well Playgirl was one of my first clients. I started out doing jobs for exercise magazines. I had done a few soap opera jobs too, but my work all started about the same time. I started working with theater jobs in NYC and other celebrity shots a few years after Playgirl. When I first started every job was big and a stand out. One of the first things I got to do was to photograph Liza Minnelli at a function. It was done for a PR friend, but I was so nervous that I loaded the film wrong, so when we started to shoot, it made a crunching noise every time I shot. I only had a minute to shoot 4 or 5 frames. They did come out but they were all crunched up and wrinkled. This was before photoshop, so I tried to retouch by hand the wrinkled spots, but it still looked pretty bad. But that is all a part of life.
Above: Anne Rice
Above: Zach Roerig (Currently seen in Vampire Diaries) during his time on As The World Turns.
FH: You have also photographed many celebrities, were you intimidated with
I am nervous about every shoot. I just worry about everything. I usually don't sleep too much the night before, but it is fun.
Above: Matt Bomer
Above: Kerr Smith & Josh Duhamel
FH: Playgirl Magazine seemed to go through different phases ( the non frontal
year in 1987). Where was the magazine at when you joined and what direction were you hoping to help take it?
I started in the early 90's. When I started erections were not mandatory. They did not care if we shot them, but the models were encouraged to fluff at least part way. I had worked for about a year and then John Holliday did a spread in the magazine (he was a famous centerfold) and he did a full on erection shoot. He was very well endowed and it caused a change in the way the magazine was presented after that. From that point on, all models had to do erection shots. From my experience, all the models wanted to do erections, so nothing really changed except that now they printed those shots.
Above: Michael Anthony (Playgirl, March 2008)
FH: Although Playgirl was a women’s magazine it had a profound impact on the lives of many gay men. Prior to the Internet, Playgirl was one of the only way many gay youth had to actually view beautiful men. It was also one of the safest as many mothers and aunts were subscribers. It seems most gay men have a ‘Playgirl story’. Do people like to share theses with you and were you aware of the power the magazine had on many youth?
Most people come up to me and always ask about their favorite models. We were planning a big anniversary issue when the magazine stopped printing which would have been fun. Now that they are publishing again (although it is only a few times a year) I hope they will return to that. It is amazing how many people remember those guys and how many of them are still around and look good.
Billy Dakin (Playgirl, July 1996)
FH: It seemed like the mid to late 80’s were some of Playgirl’s most successful years, was there pressure to find the next Brian Buzzini or model who would create a sensation?
There is always that need to find the next big model that will create a sensation. So that hasn't changed at all. I think that now there are so many more types of guys to choose from that the "one" look is not the same as it was years ago.
FH: Researching Playgirl in the 90’s I was surprised at the amount of female photographers working on the magazine. Were there some models who were more comfortable working with female photographers?
There were a couple of female photographers, but most models would rather work with male photographers. A few that I worked with that had shot with women were always saying that it was easier to shoot with a man. I think it took the sexual part of the shoot away, so it was just easier to worry about the photos then. Most of the models were straight, so to be in front of a woman, and to have to perform, it was too much for some.
Paul Brumble (Playgirl, August 2007)
FH: I know that many of the models were scouted, but was there much competition between the photographers to shoot certain models, to shoot the cover, the centerfold?
Yes, there is always competition. I had a good friend who shot, he got me started at the magazine. But we had to bring in models, so we were always out at the clubs or walking the streets looking for the next model. Sometimes I got them, and sometimes I lost. The only model I really wanted to shoot and made it known was John Holliday, he had caused a sensation and I had met him before, but never knew he was going to pose. Once he came out, I told the staff that I wanted to shoot his Man of the Year spread, and I got it. Even today it is competitive.
John Holliday (Playgirl, Man of the Year 1995)
FH: Although the first erection shot in Playgirl was in the 80’s, they seem to have become the norm in the magazine in the 90’s. Curious as to how the subject was brought up with models. Were all asked, or was it something that was part of negotiation and pay?
I answered a part of this before, but when they made it known that the models had to have erections, it was just told to the models that they had to do this. So, like today, they go about it in different ways. Some bring magazines, videos, but today they use their cell phones. The money is the same.
Above: Stefan Galio (Playgirl, September 1994)
FH: Although you mostly worked on the East Coast, I know Playgirl is known for it’s exterior shoots, beaches, on boats. Did you get to travel much for shoots or was that rare?
I always traveled, we had to give a concept of how we were going to shoot. So we could do anything we wanted as long as it was within the budget (which was low). So you had to try and borrow or use as many free locations as possible. So, about 1/2 of my work has been location and 1/2 studio work.
FH: Curious if there was ever a model, a man you scouted who said no who went on to become famous?
I've had a couple of guys who, after a test shoot decided not to pose. A couple that went on to do some type of reality show or model. They never signed releases, so it just goes into the archives.
FH: Do you have a favorite shoot, or model whose shots you were especially happy with?
Yes, I have a lot. I am hoping to do a book and gallery show of my
favorite shots, some that were used and others that were not. Playgirl has
given me permission to do this, so it is up to me now to get busy and put it
together. I'll come back and tell you about that when it happens.
Daniel Jacob (Playgirl, January 2003)
FH: You don’t have to name names, but was there a model or shoot that was just pure hell either because of a models attitude or another unrelated reason?
Well, those are still happening. Most are not too bad, but there are always models that are too big for their own good (in their minds) and tell you how to do the shoot. There are others that never show up for the shoot. You name it and it has happened.
FH: This blog has been up for close to 5 years now. I have gotten several emails over the years from Playgirl models who are now lawyers and doctors who ask me to remove their images. Curious if you have had any issues with models with regret?
Yes, this is an on going thing. I am a nice person, but now that I have my own company, www.paragonmen.com , I see this from a different perspective. These models posed, and were paid for the shoot. But it is not just their time that was used, the photographers, web designers, and everyone else involved, so to just say "I'm tired of having my shots up" is not a reason anymore. If you do the job and you read the release it clearly states that you sign your rights away to the photos. So I just don't care that they have moved on anymore. I know that sounds harsh, but I tried at first to help these models and quickly realized that it would never end if one does it they all will. So now we will try to make it more difficult for people to search for their name, but we will not take the photos down.
Jamie Bales (Playgirl-April 1994)
FH: Curious as to your thoughts/emotions when the magazine ceased monthly publication.
Well it was a big blow. We were all out of work. The staff and all the freelancers. I still work for the website, and now that they are beginning to publish again on a limited basis, I get some stuff into print. But it is not the same as it was before. I am hoping that if the money comes back, since they are still the only outlet for "women", that we will all be back at work.
Above: Eric Zientek (Playgirl, 2004)
FH: In 2009 you shot Levi Johnston for Playgirl. Despite the fact the shots were on every website devoted to the male form and almost every news organization covered the story, I was surprise how few credited the photographer. Curious as to how you felt about this. It seems like today more photographers are getting the recognition for your work, but when the magazine was on the stands it seemed all the attention went to the models. Do you feel this change and did you get validated by the models, the magazine for your work?
The magazine is pretty good about giving credit for the photos. Some outlets will honor the credits when they reproduce the photos, but that is a new trend that once the work is out there, the credit is soon forgotten. I don't mind that much, but it would be nice if people would think about it and honor that tradition.
FH: I would guess the tabloid press was all over the Levi Shoot, did you have to go to any extreme lengths to keep the shoot private?
Not really, they were always doing tweets to let people know what was going on, so it was kind of silly to think we were doing something secret.
FH: Paragon Men seems to attract many of today’ hottest men, Phil Fusco, Marcel, Dave August have all appeared. How do attract such a great collection of men?
Well lucky me, but I have done it for so long now that people kind of know my name, so that helps with models knowing that the work is legit. I created the site (along with a business partner, Dimi) to continue to shoot what I like, male physique work.
Above: Marcel for Paragon Men
FH: The video’s are a big part of the Paragon experience and it has been great to not only see some of the shoots, but hear from the models. Have any models been uncomfortable with this aspect of appearing on the site?
No most of them are OK with being in front of the video camera. I don't care for it that much. Our site is really a PHOTO site with the video as bonus material. We get some members who get really upset that it isn't professional quality video, but it is really a second thing for us, so I hope that people will love the photos and enjoy the videos.
FH: Any upcoming surprises or models you can share for Paragon?
We have a lot of great guys in the can and still shooting. I am always surprised that there are that many models out there willing to do the erotic work. I thought that would be more difficult, but I hope it continues. I think people will be happy with our upcoming Man of the Year. It has just started voting on our site, but that is always fun to see who gets that.
Above: Phil Fusco for Paragon Men
FH: If there was a signature shot/look identified with Greg Weiner, what would it be?
You know when we started Paragon Men, we both thought about those iconic images from the physique magazines from the 50's and 60's. So that look is close to what we are trying to do as well as the "Hollywood" look that I love so much. So the fact that people love the look makes me happy.
Above: Nick Pesola (l) and Sam Devries (R) from Paragon
Check out much more of Greg's iconic images at his official website HERE:
Be sure to check out some of the hottest men on the net on Paragon HERE: