Robert Scott Hooper, an artist/photographer based in Las Vegas for over three decades has photographed many diverse subjects, but it is his photos of beautiful women that have made him noteworthy. His work has been seen on the pages of newspapers and magazines worldwide, from Life to the cover of Playboy. They have been featured on billboards, posters, postcards, phone cards and video game machines and have been exhibited in galleries and private collections. He has won numerous awards for his creations in graphic arts, commercial television production, advertising, print work, and even photographing a centerfold for Playboy. Not bad for a kid from Iowa.
Born in the heartland, a typical midwestern boy who raced in the soap box derby and built model airplanes Bob was destined for art at a very young age. He filled the margins of his school papers with his drawings, much to his teachers chagrin, and by high school was designing the school logo for the yearbook. After entering college to study architecture he found he would rather draw cars and girls than buildings. He left school and searched for a job as an artist, finally landing at a large midwestern printing company.
While at the print company he joined the National Guard and ended up in the photo division where he got the opportunity to learn photography, quickly making it a valuable tool in his art. It did not take him long to turn his lens toward the female form and began shooting all who were willing.
After five years as art director for the printing company, and confident of his photo skills, Hooper took the leap and opened his own photo studio in downtown Des Moines. The studio prospered over the next few years, doing illustration and advertising photography, and Bob dreamed of being a Playboy photographer someday.
When he was not photographing pretty Iowa girls, he pursued his other passion, road racing. After racing Corvettes at tracks around the midwest for several years, he decided to design and build his own car. The aerodynamically designed "Mongoose" went on to win several top races.
Eventually Hooper began to feel limited in opportunities in his home state. In 1966 he closed his studio and moved to Las Vegas, a small town in the desert and a million cultural miles from Des Moines.
He immediately took a job at Nevada's largest newspaper, the Review Journal as a photojournalist, while still keeping his sights set on the world of glamour photography. Hooper's work readily caught the eye of most of the state's residents, including the Las Vegas News Bureau, which lured him into their employ. Created by the Chamber of Commerce the News Bureau was an elite group of talented writers and photographers who's sole job was to publicize Las Vegas and the Casinos. For nearly five years he honed his photographic skills by shooting hotels, events, shows, stars, glamour and hard news as well as motion picture film such as flying and filming (at 1,100 mph) in the then new F111 fighter aircraft.
As his glamour photos evolved from the standard "beauty on the diving board" to his own more natural style, He attracted the attention of a local entertainment weekly publication, the Vegas Visitor. The editor contracted Hooper to exclusively photograph the "cover girls" that would adorn the front page of every edition of the weekly. The women he photographed were dancers, cocktail waitresses, bank tellers, as well as entertainers like Liza Minelli and Raquel Welch. Hooper's glamour photography was credited with vaulting the Vegas Visitor into the states most successful entertainment publication with distribution the world over. For more than sixteen years, from 1968 to 1984, a gorgeous Hooper Cover Girl decorated the front page of each of some 832 editions of the Vegas Visitor.
In 1971 Hooper was gaining recognition with his freelance work and decided to leave the News Bureau and again open his own commercial studio. His graphic art background became a valuable asset in that he was able to design the billboards and ads as well as shoot the photographs for his clients. His advertising contracts included show producers, entertainers, hotels, casinos and clubs.
While still at the News Bureau, Hooper had assisted Playboy Magazine photographer Alexis Urba on a travel feature about Nevada. When, in 1972 Playboy needed a photographer to do a portrait of Bill Lear, Nevada's eccentric millionaire inventor, Urba suggested Hooper for the assignment. The shot was to accompany a story about Lear and his inventions such as the steam car, so Hooper went to Reno to shoot in Harrahs famed auto collection. It turned out to be a very special assignment for Hooper. When he saw the wonderful antique cars displayed at Harrahs, it sparked his imagination and produced an idea for a Playboy Magazine pictorial on his favorite subjects, 'Sex and Cars'. The magazine loved the idea but was reluctant to give the assignment to an unknown newcomer. In an almost unprecedented move for the publication, the editor decided to give Hooper the go ahead to produce and photograph the series. The ten page pictorial "Sex Education and the Automobile", which ran in May 1973, was a hit and gained the greatest reader response of any pictorial in the history of the magazine.
Hooper continued to work extensively for Playboy for the next decade, becoming known at the magazine as an "idea" man who's pictorials seemed to reach the heart of America . From "Sisters" to "Airline Stews", Hooper's pictorials were some of the most popular and memorable that the magazine printed.
In 1976, while having lunch at a local casino, Hooper discovered a beautiful blonde with 52 inch tresses. The following year he did his first centerfold for Playboy with the long haired beauty, Debra Jo Fondren, 1977's Miss September who became the longest running centerfold and most popular Playmate to date. Debra Jo went on to become Playmate of the Year and Playboy acknowledged Hooper's work by giving him the "first ever" award for the Best Playmate Pictorial for her centerfold.
Hooper's ideas and the quality of his photography assured the regular appearance of his work in the magazine, but it was his ability as a photojournalist that led Playboy to send him on the road to do the "Sex In America" series. When they sent he and his longtime assistant Theresa Holmes to cover a swingers convention in California, he returned with photos and interviews that startled even the liberal eyes and ears of Playboy editors. They then sent Hooper's team to New York to cover the sex club phenomenon,resulting in a pictorial featuring Plato's Retreat (which gained him his second Playboy award for Best Pictorial Reportage in 1978). From their ability to find, interview and photograph real people in real life intimate situations Hooper/Holmes were dubbed the "SWAT" team by the editors and sent on to do "Sex In Miami", "Sex In Chicago", "Couch Dancing" and "Phone Sex."
By 1983, along with publishing his own calendar "The Fabulous Girls of Las Vegas" Hooper decided to expand his talents to the world of video and motion pictures and began doing small video projects for clients. By the mid 80's the VCR and aids had affected the men's magazine business and Playboy was going through big changes. In 1986, after finishing the pictorial "The Girls of Magic" for the magazine and having more than achieved his goal of being a Playboy photographer, Hooper began in earnest to build a film production company. By producing local television commercials, sales films and some Playboy Video product he learned the business and soon added music videos and his own line of R-rated productions to the company's projects as well as some new awards in television production. When the building boom hit Las Vegas in the 90's the company added time-lapse to its list of film works. The construction of the Luxor Hotel, their first time-lapse project, led the production company to create time-lapse films of Caesars Palace, The Venetian, The Grand Slam Canyon construction as well as a steel factory in Arizona and the building of an airplane in Germany. Embracing new technology and adding new young talent has kept Hooper Productions growing and today they include music production and web site design in their repertoire.
But at heart, Bob Hooper will always be a "Girl Shooter" and continues to photograph women for magazines, advertising and billboards along the Vegas Strip. Today, along with putting his beautiful images on the web, he is working on several book projects, including a retrospect of Las Vegas glamour with some never before published photographs of Showgirls and Burlesque Stars and a city that no longer exists.