It seems like forever ago now that guys with a pipe dream moved into the Thorton Lofts in Venice Beach, California. Those beachfront condos would eventually become the famous Chive Campus, a sort of anything-goes party where the only rules were don’t feed Mac after midnight and clothing was optional.
There’s a lot of untold stories from those bygone days and one stands out now that I think you might enjoy because it involves a lot of cleavage.
When we first moved in we occupied the rear condo, not the ocean view condo with which you’re familiar. That forward-facing condo was occupied by a photographer named Cavan Clark, a tall burly guy in his mid 30’s who happened to be the lead photographer for Bebe Clothing. During the day we watched a who’s who of supermodels circulate in and out of Cavan’s loft. He shot non-stop. Cavan was and still is one of the best fashion photographers in the world.
Cavan’s also crazy, in a good way, it was part of his genius. There would be days I’d walk into his place and he’d stop me at the door, “Nobody is coming in here today unless you’re wearing a kimono.” To my right was a rack of kimonos in various sizes. I remember one model there didn’t like kimonos so she tied it around her waist and walked around topless. There was never a dull moment, lots of chilled Patron and Champagne I remember. It was heaven. At night we used to go next door and make Cavan stop shooting sometimes, Cavan has no off switch so we’d have to go shut him off sometimes, hand him a joint and take his camera away.
At this time in theCHIVE’s history, we were not creating our own content. We relied on submissions and the internet echo chamber for content delivery. Cavan was constantly up our ass to learn how to shoot, “You run a photo blog right? You misfits need to learn how to shoot.” (he always called us misfits, it stuck). I told him if he taught us the ropes I’d do it. We didn’t have any money at the time, nothing to offer really. Cavan responded by mailing us a letter detailing what would become our first photo kit, camera, lights, lenses, everything we’d need. That’s right, he mailed it to us; we were his next door neighbors. Fucking whack job.
The kit would cost us $10,000, half my college debt at the time. It had a note, ‘Buy these shiny toys exactly as I have laid out and I will teach you everything you need to know.’ So we did and he did. Cavan shot the whole Shay Maria gallery for us (for free) as a tutorial. What I loved about that shoot is that it was executed completely without photoshop. Cavan made us do it that way, “If you’re shooting with the mentality that you can fix your mistakes in post production, you’re cheating yourself and your potential.” He taught us that the right kind of lighting is nature’s photoshop.
Cavan Clark didn’t just teach us how to use a camera he taught us about fierce loyalty to your friends. He asked for nothing in exchange for his photo tutelage, not one thing. Also, if a couch needed moved, he would help move the couch. He abhorred the transactional friendships that exist within the fashion industry. “All these fashion mavens have an angle, always trying to get to the top or stay on top and using others like kleenex to get there, but they won’t help you move a fucking couch.”
The day before Cavan left the Thorton Lofts, he walked in and announced he was leaving the next day. “I’m moving to San Francisco. I want you misfits to have something.” He handed us the key to his condo. “I talked to Ann (our landlord at the time), she said you guys can have my place. I think you guys need the ocean view over the boardwalk to make this Chive thing work. Don’t ever treat it like a real office though, it should be like a character in a show.” And with that he handed us the keys to the now-famous beachfront office in Venice Beach. We would eventually take the adjacent condo and connect them, a superstructure of unnatural delights. The back office would become my private residence… theCHIVE campus was born.
Thanks for all the tequila, Cavan. I know I’ll see you soon, buddy. There’s a spot on my couch in Austin waiting for you whenever you drop by, unannounced of course.
Cavan’s spec-tacular Instagram.