Hugh Hefner has passed. I never had the chance to meet him, though I’m told both he and his daughter Christie both checked me out when I did my photographic internship at Playboy.
While there were — of course — tales of parties and such, most of the tales I heard about him concerned photography and his passion for it. Not just passion, but considerable knowledge and appreciation.
One tale I was told concerned his directives on what format was used to shoot various sized shots in the magazine. The larger the picture in the magazine, the larger the format with the centerfolds being shot on an 8×10 camera. One of the long-time photographers told me of a time they tested Hugh, as they didn’t think he could tell the difference. Seems he caught on to the test, correctly identified which photo had been shot on what format, and sent back a message basically saying ‘good try, don’t ever do that again or you are fired.’
When I was there was a time of transition for the empire. Christie had just taken over, and Hugh had left Chicago for good. The photography was changing, but there was still quite a bit of the “it’s not what you show, but how you don’t show it” philosophy at work. The idea was to be fresh, but elegant, and not to sink to the levels of some other publications. That philosophy still shapes a lot of what I do.
And, yes, Hugh not only selected the playmates, at the time I was there he still personally approved every photo that went into magazine. He was also quite serious about the “girl next door” part of things, and anyone moving towards being a playmate was vetted to be sure they met his standards on that.
So, to Hugh: Thank You. Your magazine influenced my youth in photo and in word (yes, I did read the articles, sometimes before looking at the photos). Interning at your magazine is still influencing my photography to this day. The chance to meet Pompeo and other photographers, and more importantly to work extensively with David Mecey, David Chan, and Randy Goss (the studio manager) did wonders to improve my talent. Indirectly, you introduced me to some wonderful things and a number of good people. Godspeed.