Ken Marcus (born October 2, 1946) is an American photographer, known for his glamour photography with Penthouse and Playboy magazines. For over 30 years he has produced hundreds of centerfolds, editorials, album covers, and advertisements. His work is shown in galleries, published in books and magazines. He was an artist-in-resident at the Yosemite National Park Museum. Marcus also lectures and conducts workshops internationally. He has an adult fetish and BDSM site.
Background and education
Ken’s formal fine-art photographic training began at age 12. Ken studied with Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park for the next 13 years as well as with Brett Weston, Paul Caponigro, Wyn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham and Judy Dater, all of whom influenced his early work.
While still in high school, Ken attended the Art Center College of Design studying fashion and advertising photography. He later attended Brooks Institute of Photography.
Early commercial work
In 1965, Ken established his studio on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, where his business continues today. Ken’s earliest commercial work consisted of product shots, catalogs, corporate and editorial assignments.
Throughout his 20s, Ken’s commercial assignments included product and fashion catalogs, architectural interiors, food illustration, magazine editorials and advertising photography. Within five years of opening his studio, his work received national publicity and several Art Directors Club awards.
By the early ’70s Ken shot regularly for Max Factor, Frederick’s of Hollywood and other West Coast fashion clients. He also photographed for album covers, including the inside gatefold of George Harrison’s Living in the Material World.
In 1971 Marcus became the first American photographer for Penthouse magazine. His early pictorials involved 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. Marcus crafted his own homemade diffusion filters because, at that time, there were none available on the commercial market.
In 1974, Marcus left Penthouse to become the West Coast Contributing Photographer at Playboy magazine. For 11 years Marcus’s work was featured regularly in Playboy’s 15 international editions, and for eight of those years Marcus exclusively photographed the Playboy Calendar. Between 1974 and 1985 he produced 41 Playmate layouts, over 100 calendars, covers and editorials and twice received Playboy’s ‘Photographer of the Year Award’.
Shortly thereafter, Marcus began shooting pictorials and centerfolds once again for Penthouse. New clients at this time included Jordache, Snap-on Tools, NAPA, and Muscle & Fitness magazine.
Seminars, workshops, and videos
For over 25 years, Ken was a regularly featured speaker at national photo conventions and expos. His lectures, seminars and intensive study workshops were sponsored by corporations including Kodak, Hasselblad, Dynalite and Canon, and professional photographers’ organizations. Ken has appeared in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and in most of the United States.
In addition to his personal appearances, he produced an award-winning three volume video series The Ken Marcus Glamour Workshops. These videos explain professional production techniques for studio and location glamour photography.
Originally interested only in landscape fine-art photography, Ken began taking serious interest in nude photography as art during the time that he was working with Playboy.
In the early 80s, his nude studies of Los Angeles Ballet Company dancers were first exhibited in Los Angeles.
In 1988 Ken was selected as the artist-in-residence for the Yosemite National Park Museum. His images of nude models in nature were originally banned by park officials, but are now shown as part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Throughout his career, Ken has done black and white portraits of celebrities such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Virginia Madsen, and Tom Arnold.
Monterey Pop Festival discovery
Ken Marcus was one of only two official photographers at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. The images of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones were rediscovered in 2005 during a studio remodel.
His photograph of Jimi Hendrix is featured on the Jimi Hendrix album, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at Monterey, released on October 16, 2007.
Appearances and pop culture references
Ken Marcus appeared in the opening scenes of the Baywatch TV movie “Panic at Malibu Pier”. His character is a photographer shooting a glamour layout on the beach.
In the comic book series Rocketeer, Dave Stevens portrayed Ken as the nefarious “Marco of Hollywood” with a readily identifiable caricature.
Contemporary American Erotic Photography: Volume 1 (1984) (Contributing Photographer)
California Club (1996)
Two Faces (1996)
Two Knotty Boys: Back on the Ropes (2009)
“Award of Distinctive Merit” at the Art Directors Club Annual Awards
“Editorial Award for Photography” by Playboy Magazine
“Editorial Award for Photography” by Playboy Magazine
“Best Photography – Studio” at the Academy of Bodybuilding and Fitness Awards
“Publisher’s Choice Award” by Adult Stars Magazine
“Best Bondage Photographer” by The Bondage Awards
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.” Marcus, Ken, Ken Marcus quote at Ken Marcus Gallery.com, retrieved 2007-05-20
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”. Biographical Information by Ira Levine, retrieved 2007-05-20
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”. Biographical Information by Ira Levine, retrieved 2007-05-20