Ken Marcus

Ken Marcus (born October 2, 1946) is an American photographer, best known for his glamour photography with Penthouse and Playboy magazines. In his retirement he runs a well-known artistic adult fetish and BDSM site.


For many years his photographs of beautiful women have been on the pages of Playboy and Penthouse magazines as well as hundreds of advertisements, editorials, album covers, calendars and posters. His erotic images of men and women in highly sexual situations have appeared throughout the world in galleries, museums and sophisticated publications.

Ken Marcus was born and raised in Hollywood, California, where he was educated in art, photography and classical music. He studied advertising photography at the Art Center College of Design and Brooks Institute of Photography and for 13 years in Yosemite National Park as the youngest student of famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams.

In 1965 at the age of 19, Ken established his studio on fashionable Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, where his business continues today. After several years as a successful advertising, commercial, and food photographer, his direction shifted toward fashion, beauty, glamour and nudes. He has produced award winning photographs for editorial, entertainment and consumer clients.

In 1971 Ken was selected as the first American photographer for Penthouse magazine as they published their first American editions. He was responsible for introducing the soft-focus technique that soon became a Penthouse trademark. Ken left Penthouse after three years to become the major contributing photographer to Playboy magazine. From 1974-'85 Ken's work was featured regularly in Playboy's 15 international editions. For eight years Ken exclusively photographed the famous Playboy Calendar. He has produced hundreds of editorials, centerfolds, covers and calendars. His glamourous nudes have received many awards and much media publicity.

Recognized as one of the nation's top photographic educators, Ken has produced seminars, lectures, and workshops on the art and techniques of nude and glamour photography. For twenty five years he was a regularly featured speaker at national photographic conventions and international photo expo's. His corporate sponsors have included Canon, Hasselblad, Pentax, Polaroid and Kodak.

Background and education

Born October 2, 1946 in Hollywood, California, Ken began his lifelong interest in photography at around age 5. Encouraged by his parents, he later established his first darkroom in the family basement at age eight and became active in amateur camera clubs and activities.

At age 12, while on a camera club photo outing to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano, Ken produced an unusual picture of the statue of St. Francis of Assisi. This resulted in his first commercial sale to Paramount Pictures. The movie studio displayed a mural of his photo in the lobby at the world premiere and used it for promotion in exchange for several years worth of free movie tickets to Paramount Theaters.

Ken's formal fine-art photographic training began at age 13, becoming Ansel Adams' youngest student. Ken studied with Ansel in Yosemite National Park for the next 13 years as well as Brett Weston, Paul Cappinegro, Wyn Bullock, Imogene Cunningham and Judy Dater, all of whom influenced his early work.

While still a high school student, Ken attended the Art Center College of Design at night to study fashion and advertising photography. He later attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara.

Ken returned to Hollywood in 1965 at age 18 to begin his photo business and establish a production studio on Melrose Avenue.

Early work

Ken's earliest commercial work consisted of product shots, catalogs, corporate and editorial assignments. One of his more unusual, yet memorable early assignments was to photograph the instruction book for the famous Pink Pussycat College of Striptease (where dancers came from all over the world to learn the art and technique of strip-tease).

Throughout his twenties, Ken's commercial assignments included product and fashion catalogs, architectural interiors, food illustration, magazine editorials and advertising photography. Within five years, his work received national publicity and several Art Director's Awards.

By the early '70s Ken work began shifting more toward beauty, fashion & glamour as he shot regularly for Max Factor, Frederick's of Hollywood and other West Coast fashion clients.

Glamour photography

In 1972 Ken was approached to be the first American photographer for Penthouse magazine shortly after publisher Bob Guccione challenged and overturned the ban against total nudity in the U.S. Supreme Court. This decision allowed portrayal of the human body in its entirety for the first time in America. Ken was amongst the first photographers to legally explore this new creative arena.

His early pictorials were fantasy images of erotic and civil rights themes involving couples and models photographed through heavy, soft focus diffusion. This technique, while popular during the early part of the 20th century, had not been used in publication since the early 1920s. Ken crafted his own homemade diffusion filters (at the time there were none available on the commercial market). Penthouse's fully nude pictorials created quite a stir in the publishing world as circulation broke all prior records. The massive publicity rapidly transformed Ken into one of America's most famous glamour photographers.

In 1974, Ken left Penthouse to become the West Coast Contributing Photographer at Playboy magazine, replacing several of their staff photographers. This free-lance relationship lasted for over 11 years, with Ken often shooting more than 200 days a year. During that time he produced 41 Playmate layouts, over 100 calendars, covers and editorials and twice received Playboy's 'Photographer of the Year Award'.

In 1985 Ken ended his relationship with Playboy because of new copyright and work-for-hire policies that the magazine had imposed. Ken held strong beliefs regarding artists ownership of intellectual properties and copyright.

Shortly thereafter, Ken began shooting pictorials and centerfolds once again, for Penthouse. Meanwhile, new clients such as Jordache, Snap-on Tools, NAPA, and Muscle & Fitness magazine quickly filled Ken's schedule, as did numerous speaking engagements, seminars, video productions and workshops.


Seminars, workshops, and videos

Throughout his career, Ken Marcus has maintained an academic interest in photography. For almost 25 years, he has lectured, taught seminars and conducted intensive study workshops for photographers. A regularly featured speaker at national photo conventions and expos, Ken's presentations drew large crowds and receive the highest reviews.

More than 10,000 photographers have attended Ken Marcus seminars for an insight into the complex world of professional glamour and nude photography.

Sponsored by corporations including Kodak, Hasselblad, Dynalite and Canon, and professional photographers' organizations, Ken's lectures and seminars were presented to professional groups throughout the world. Ken has appeared in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and in most of the United States.

As an addition to his personal appearances, he has produced an award winning video seriesThe Ken Marcus Glamour Workshops. This highly-successful, award-winning three volume video series on professional glamour techniques is considered the 'bible' of glamour photography. These videos explain professional production techniques for both studio and location glamour photography.

Fine-art photography

Throughout his life, Ken Marcus has relentlessly pursued his interest in black & white, fine art photography. Originally interested only in the landscape (Ansel Adams' influence), Ken began taking serious interest in nude photography as art during the time that he was working with Playboy.

His nude studies of ballet dancers were first exhibited in Los Angeles in the early 80s.

In 1988 Ken was selected as the artist-in-residence for the Yosemite National Park Museum. His controversial images of nude models in nature were originally banned by the government, but are now shown as part of the museum's permanent collection.

Monterey Pop Festival discovery

Early in his photographic career, Ken Marcus was one of only two official photographers at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Not being a fan of rock-and-roll music, he didn't realize the significance of the images of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and others. He put the negatives in a box and forgot about them until 2005, when a studio remodel prompted the rediscovery of the negatives. Prints from the Monterey Pop Festival, and more, are now sold through Ken Marcus's prints site (note: site also contains nudity and erotic art prints).

His iconic photograph of Jimi Hendrix is featured on the new Jimi Hendrix album, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at Monterey", to be released October 16, 2007.


About the Monterey Pop Festival prints: "Shooting backstage at the Monterey Pop Festival was an amazing photographic experience. The film has been lost for almost 40 years. Recently, while remodeling my studio we found the box containing the negatives. We had long thought the images were lost. Here was Jimi Hendrix, onstage for the first time in America, setting fire to his guitar and blowing everyone's mind. When he went onstage, hardly anybody knew who he was. A few minutes later when he left the stage, he had established himself as a legend in rock n' roll history. This picture shows Jimi in his most decisive moment."

About his start in glamour photography: "I really had no interest in commercial glamour. I was rather shy around women as a young man. It was a girlfriend who introduced me to the artwork of Gustav Klimt, particularly an image he had done of two women together that struck me with unusual force. From that inspiration, I first got interested in doing nude photography with the idea of exploring relationships between people. This was coinciding with the sexual revolution that was going on at the time. As the general community around me was exploring sexuality and eroticism personally, I was interested in exploring and documenting it visually".

About the softer-focus approach to shooting nude models: "This so-called new style, which was really more like the old style of shooting erotic material back around the turn of the century, caught on like wildfire. I got really well-known for it in a big hurry. Most of the work I did at that time was of couples, two girls together or single girls in erotic situations, all portraying their sexuality as well as glamour".

External links

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