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THE STYLE FILES: THE PLAYERS : More People Who Never Make Headlines : The Camera Men : DEAN AND DAVIS FACTOR, Owners of the photographic sound stage Smash Box: "There was nothing to match (N.Y.) studios in L.A."


Brothers Dean and Davis Factor--great-grandsons of makeup pioneer Max Factor--have clearly inherited their ancestor's flair for turning fashion into business.

Dean, 29, and Davis, 33, own and operate Smash Box, a 20,000-square-foot photo studio tucked away in an offbeat part of Culver City that is home away from home to photographers like Bruce Weber, Greg Gorman, Matthew Ralston and Annie Leibovitz.

The studio, named for the accordion-like device once used to shield a camera lens, is more than a photographic sound stage. The Factors have turned this once-barren warehouse into a one-stop shopping service for art directors, fashion stylists and photographers who don't always have time or energy to drive around Los Angeles in search of backdrops and lighting, hand props and furnishings.

The idea belongs to Davis, who opened a smaller version of Smash Box in Santa Monica in 1989.

"At the time, New York had all these great studios but there was nothing to match them in Los Angeles," says Davis, a photographer now working on the Guess? ad campaign. Italian photographer Fabricio Ferri, shooting a cover photo of Cindy Crawford for L.A. Style magazine, was the first client.

The larger studio was added last year when Dean, who has a master's in finance from USC, entered the picture.

"We're not running a complex specifically catering to photographers," says Dean. Music videos and commercials are also shot at the studio, which has become known as a hot spot. Smash Box recently hosted actor Johnny Depp, Vogue magazine, designer Richard Tyler and Neiman Marcus for a high-profile party to benefit the DARE anti-drug program.

Artfully austere, the studio also invites cast and crews to unwind with billiards and gourmet meals by chef Phillip Weingarten.

With high-profile subjects holed up inside on any given day, one would expect Smash Box to be a magnet for paparazzi. Not so, say the Factors, who insist the offbeat location helps.

"One day I looked out my window and saw Jack Nicholson wandering around in the parking lot with a big cigar in his mouth," says Dean. "When I came out to ask him if he was lost, he told me he'd been looking all over the place for the front door."

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