“Tom of Finland: Up Close and Personal” | 30th July | LA

INVITATION - Tom of Finland Up Close and Personal v2107_2.indd

Durk Dehner grew up in Alberta, Canada, and attended fine arts programs at The Allied Arts Center in Calgary, Alberta, the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and The Vancouver School of Fine Arts. Dehner cofounded Tom of Finland Foundation with Tom himself in 1984 to establish an archive for Tom’s life history and work. He modeled for photographers Bruce Weber and Ken Haak, and began working with Tom of Finland in 1978 as his public relations liaison. Dehner was instrumental in bringing Tom out of the underground and focusing public attention on his work.  He continues as head of the Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, California.

Dian Hanson began her publishing career as a magazine editor, helping found the 1970s hardcore journal Puritan, then moving on to Partner, OUI, Adult Cinema Review, Outlaw Biker and Big Butt, among others. She was most famously the editor of Juggs and Leg Show fetish magazines from 1987-2001. Since 2001 Hanson has held the position of Sexy Book Editor for art book publisher, TASCHEN, in which capacity she writes and edits all the sexually oriented titles for the company.

F. Valentine Hooven was born in Philadelphia and has spent much of his adult life in the theater, writing, designing, and acting regionally and in New York. Since leaving the theater in the mid-eighties, he has been a full-time freelance writer and illustrator, appearing in most of the popular gay publications of the 1980s and ’90s until focusing on Handjobs, which has published all of his erotic work since 1999. He is the author of the full-length biography, Tom of Finland – Life and Work of a Gay Hero, published by Bruno Gmünder Verlag, and an artist-member of Tom of Finland Foundation.

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Tom Nicoll + Tom of Finland

Tom of Finland’s most active contact in Great Britain was the physique photographer Tom Nicoll. They were put in touch by Bob Mizer, who frequently published both men’s works. When Nicoll invited him to visit London, Tom quickly took him up on the offer. Under the name “Scott,” Nicoll was an early proponent of the leather scene and he had a studio, appropriately on Leather Lane Street, where his photographs of muscles and motorcycles did much to create and popularize the biker image. Nicoll commissioned some thirty drawings from Tom based on a combination of both their fantasies.


TOM NICOLL, Self-photograph, c.1964

Encouraged by Nicoll, Tom bought his first black leather jacket in London, but Nicoll made an even more lasting impact on Tom’s output by convincing him to start working from live models and photographs instead of just his imagination. On sunny days during Tom’s visits, the two of them would go to Hyde Park and look for fresh material. Tom was impressed with Nicoll’s willingness to approach a muscular stranger.

He would go right up to this beautiful guy sunbathing on the grass and ask him to pose naked and every time—every time—the guy would say yes! I could never do that. Of course, it helped that Tom Nicoll was himself so beautiful.

(Nicoll confides that his secret was to check out the bathing suit. If it was tight and skimpy, the man would pose nude. “Absolutely foolproof,” he insists.)

Once Tom began using photographs in the creation of his drawings the improvement was so dramatic that he seldom went back to drawing totally from imagination. Using photographs did create one problem: he had to get actual live men to pose for them somehow. Slowly, shyly, and only if the circumstances were exactly right, he began to ask men whom he thought handsome and well-built to pose for him. To his naive surprise, when he approached them and said, “Hi, my name is Tom of Finland. Would you pose for me?” they always said yes.

Tom loved the feeling of freedom and acceptance that he had in Chelsea and Soho—the arty bohemian areas of London. He could never feel that way in Helsinki. He began to consider moving to England permanently. He even developed a “Tom of London” logo. Then Tom Nicoll announced plans to immigrate to America. To the detriment of physique photography, he closed down Scott Studios in 1965 and moved to San Francisco. Tom abandoned his plans to move, although London retained its place at the head of his travel list for many years.

Tom of Finland: Life and Work of a Gay Hero by F. Valentine Hooven