Alicia Fox has worked with me for more than 10 years as a production designer. On her own time she’s a talented painter and poet. She was recently invited to write a guest blog post for Her Circle Ezine. She needed to submit a photo to accompany the post. We had reached a milestone in a large project and were having a celebratory breakfast at Egg, a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where we make any excuse to have celebratory breakfasts — they serve the best breakfast I’ve ever had in New York City. Alicia explained that her recent attempt at a headshot didn’t turn out very good. I had my camera with me, and I spotted some wonderful light coming through the window at the entrance to the restaurant. We shot a few frames and had a winner. There’s nothing like natural window light for a beautiful portrait.
Alicia is a great model with many different looks. The first time I photographed her was in 2006, when a client whose brochure I was designing needed an image of a 40-something, ultraorthodox Jewish woman. We couldn’t find an appropriate stock image, and my client didn’t know any actual ultraorthodox Jews who were willing to be photographed. I had just started doing serious photography, and I offered to try, though I was kind of joking. But I said I’d show my client the images to see if any were usable. I didn’t have a studio backdrop or serious lighting equipment yet, so I suspended a chenille blanket for the background and set up a cheap light kit that a friend bought for me at a tag sale years earlier for $10. The kerchief is a bandanna I take with me on bike rides in warm weather. When I showed the results to my client, I was surprised when she said that we had gotten the look exactly right and we could publish one of the photos in the brochure.
Shortly thereafter, another client couldn’t find a stock photo that exactly fit his needs. He needed a 40-something soccer mom who looked like she was participating in a fundraising walk-a-thon in Texas in November. Since this would be the first walk-a-thon he’d be producing, there were no actual photos from previous events. As usual, this project was on a tight schedule, so there was no time to prepare. I found a t-shirt in one of my file cabinet drawers. We turned it inside-out to hide the printing on it and cinched it in the back with binder clips because it was extra large, and Alicia is not. We went to a local park and found a location with nothing distinguishable in the background. Alicia gripped a water bottle, unzipped her jacket, and tried to feel the warmth of Texas in November, even though it was January in New York.