At The Ailey School on the 2nd floor the wall is covered with the headshots of all faculty members in every division of the school. What is great about the Ailey faculty is that the instructors range from mid 20’s to 80 plus in age. However by looking at the wall of headshots you would never know it. All the pictures seem to stop at 40 years old and stay. You can almost tell the era the photograph was taken in by the quality. The more mature of the bunch are fuzzy in appearance, almost as if there was a filter used. The more current, digital pictures tend to be crystal clear and sharp. It’s like looking at a time warp, especially when the real person stands in front of his or her own picture, forcing the past to share space with the present, and though time has wizened their bodies a bit, and life has etched its happenings across their brow, and dusted their hair white you still see the “them” of their headshot. The spirit is the same…. As I looked at my own I realized that it was time that I updated or else I would end up like some of my co-workers, too far out to make the change without it going noticed. I was on the cusp; it was now or never. I have had a proper professional headshot taken in over 20 years, that’s right I wrote 20… I was quickly endanger of becoming one of those people who are 60 and still using the headshot they took when they entered the Corps de Ballet when they were 16 years old.
The headshot I use presently was taken when I was about 23. The photographer, Ken Kobiashi was a master of lighting. He had been a commercial photographer, lighting cars and food and such, hence he knew how to make things, and literally things look amazing. At the time he was trying to build his book as a portrait photographer hoping to work for publications like Forbes magazine, so he was shooting people for free. My friend Toni Senecal (of Toni On) referred me too him. It was an easy shoot to my recollection; I went there alone and did my own hair and makeup. He took a variety of shots and he promised me he would have them from my in a week or so. When he presented me with the contact sheet (yes it was actual film) I barely recognized myself. My skin looked dewy, and flawless, the hue of my complexion was a golden cinnamon that I had never seen reflected back at me in the mirror. He had captured something… something I did not know existed. I kept asking myself if I really looked like that.
Although I loved the photos it was very difficult to choose one. There were things about my face that I still did not like and finding “the shot” from a slew of beautiful pictures was still a task. In the end I chose two: one serious, one smiling. I ended up settling on the serious one, (I don’t even know where the other one is now). As time passed, I forgot that I hate my nose and my eyes look a little cockeyed, and my eyebrows look uneven, and that I look hard. When I look at the photo now 20 some odd years later I see a …girl. I see a girl who is trying… trying to be strong, trying to be powerful, confident, attractive, alluring, just trying. I see a girl who doesn’t realize that she already is.
Now that is what I see because I have the backstory, everyone else probably just sees a good headshot.
My photographer friend Eva Harris, shot my new headshots in my living room with natural light and a few reflectors. Since I am not actively performing or seeking work, they don’t have to fit a criterion; they don’t have to have a glossy commercial feel. These headshots will be used for publicity when I go somewhere to teach. They can really look like me, not a version of me that I think someone wants to book. We had a blast shooting. It was a collaborative effort in every sense, Eva jerry rigging reflectors to my mirrors to generate light and filters to my window to soften it. Mid way through my boyfriend, back from a bike ride took on position of Art Director (naturally as that is one of his jobs) me trying to stay focused and take direction. Eva was so inspired that long after we had “gotten” the shot she kept shooting.
There is always a dread I have when I take photos, I don’t like taking them in the first place and I hate looking at the results. At a photo shoot, I am never the girl who is peering over the photographers shoulder trying to get a glimpse. I prefer to feel it. When Eva sent over her first picks as she started to edit I had a similar feeling to the one I had all of those years back when I first saw Ken Kobiashi’s work. This time I was not taken aback at not recognizing myself but in the fact that I looked so much like myself, my mature self. I couldn’t help thinking that I had finally reached a point where I feel the way I look, and look the way that I feel. I feel youthful but I am not, though I am not old per se I am no Spring chicken. I feel confident, and self-assured, I feel like I know what I am doing (in some regards) feel like I am serious but don’t take myself too seriously. Where I don’t think I “look my age” I feel like I look the age of my spirit or energy. I am sure that anyone looking at it will just see a nice headshot. There were at least 4 pics that I would readily use.
I can’t wait to use my new headshots. As soon as I make a print the first one will go on the Ailey school wall. Some people may ask why I changed my photo (people tend to really love the current outdated one) but I doubt that they will take issue with the new one because it looks… like me (on a good day). Where there is something that I will miss about my younger headshot, my present day one is more accurate and truthful as to what you are getting, that young girl is still there but she has learned a lot, and has a lot more to give, say and share.
The photos above are not yet retouched!!! not bead eh?
to contact Eva Harris http://