headshot

Headshots for a Harvard lecturer and public health expert

Every once in a while, a client will walk through my door who immediately brightens the room. I feel very fortunate to have photographed Colleen Chapman this past week, a public health expert who lectures at Harvard, Boston, and Georgetown Universities, in addition to running her healthcare consultancy. Hailing from Waban, MA, Colleen was truly a delightful person to photograph; witty, warm, and brilliantly clever.

Colleen was looking for a professional, warm, and polished headshot to be used on her speaker bios and for her company's marketing material. My goal was to convey her wit, vivacity, and lovely personality in her imagery, which was truly a pleasure on my part!

Portraits and headshots of Theresa Regli, chief analyst of Real Story Group

Creating the right headshot for a thought leader in technology

Theresa Regli, chief analyst of Real Story Group, a global digital workplace and marketing technology analyst firm, speaks at technology conferences throughout the world. She contacted me recently because she needed an updated, sophisticated portrait that accurately conveyed both her experience and her real-life presence.

Portraits of Theresa Regli of Real Story Group. Boston, MA.

Portraits of Theresa Regli of Real Story Group. Boston, MA.

Intelligent, witty, and well-traveled, Theresa had a wonderful gravitas about her, a feeling of great internal strength, and it was important that these qualities would shine through her portrait. For an accomplished person like Theresa, I felt that her headshot had to be like a short story that described her world of work and her confidence in that world just through her gaze, stance, and body language. We were both very pleased with how the images conveyed both her internal and external presence.

A change of background for a different look, and a peek behind the scenes.

A change of background for a different look, and a peek behind the scenes.

Shalon interview featuring author Robin Lippincott: part of the independent creatives series

A few months ago, I posted about the Shalon, a cross-collaborative professional creative group formed between myself, an author, an artist, and a filmmaker. Inspired by the concept of 18th century French salons, we decided to meet monthly to discuss our goals, be accountable to one another, and brainstorm ideas. The three menfolk of our group suggested the name based on the first three letters of my name. Being an independent creative professional can challenge the most stalwart of creative souls, and this group helps keep all of us focused and productive, both creatively and from the business standpoint. I hope that this, and future interviews with fellow independent creatives will inspire and support those of us making a living with our art. In that initial post, I mentioned that I'd be focusing on the Shalon-ers individually so you can learn a little more about them and their work. This week, I interviewed our resident writer, Robin Lippincott, the author of the novels "In the Meantime", "Our Arcadia", and "Mr. Dalloway", among many other published works.

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Robin Lippincott, photographed at Mt. Auburn Cemetery
Robin Lippincott, photographed at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Sharona:

Hi Robin, and thanks so much for speaking to us about you and your work. Could you tell us a little bit about you and your work?

Robin: I am a writer of literary fiction and nonfiction. I have two books coming out: Blue Territory: A Mediation on the Life and Work of Joan Mitchell (November 2015), and Rufus + Syd, a young adult novel co-written with Julia Watts (Spring 2016). I am also the author of the novels In the Meantime, Our Arcadia, and Mr. Dalloway, and the short story collection, The 'I' Rejected. My fiction/nonfiction has appeared in over 30 journals, including "The Paris Review," "American Short Fiction," "Fence," "Memorious," "The Literary Review," "The New York Times Book Review," and others. I teach in the low-residency MFA Program at Spalding University, and am also an avid film/museum/gallery goer, as well as a frequent walker in the city.

Sharona: How did you first venture into writing?

Robin: I first got into writing as a result of grief, not death but loss, as has been true for so many writers—one long, hot, long ago summer in Central Florida, where I grew up. Van Gogh's letters to his brother, collected in Dear Theo, and Anne Frank's Diary, were seminal aspects of my aesthetic and moral education that summer.

Sharona: 

What are the greatest challenges in your work, and what helps you overcome them?

Robin: The greatest challenge in the work itself is simply getting it right, and in creating something that's beautiful and true. And then there are the challenges that occur at the intersection of art and commerce, at which there's most always a collision: sometimes it's only a bump or a scratch or a dent; at other times the vehicle is totaled. In both cases, you've just got to keep at it, teeth (sometimes) gritted.

Sharona: Whose work do you admire or influences you?

Robin: The list is long. I consider Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence as my literary parents, with Emily Dickinson as a great aunt, and from there it's largely the great minds and/or stylists (the writer's writers), as well as a few Southern writers, whom I most admire. Here's a shortlist:  Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, John Berger, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, James Baldwin, Elizabeth Hardwick, James Salter, Grace Paley, James Schuyler, Toni Morrison, Renata Adler, Michael Ondaatje, W. G. Sebald, Anne Carson....

Sharona: 

How is the Shalon, or meeting in other creative professional groups, helpful to you?

Robin: The Shalon is invaluable to me for several reasons. First, I believe the artistic pursuit (and the life that goes with that) is best and perhaps only really understood by other artists; in my experience, non-artists just don't/can't fully get it. And so I receive meaningful emotional support, both generally and also specifically. And I also get ideas and inspiration, and stimulation, as well as direct, inside exposure to the work of artists working in other art forms.

Robin Lippincott, photographed at Mt. Auburn Cemetery
Robin Lippincott, photographed at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Portraits of an Oxford professor in Boston, MA

Nicholas Cole and I first met in 1997 when we were both studying in England, and we immediately struck up a fast friendship. I joke that Nick never left school, as he is now a professor of American history at Pembroke College, Oxford University. I generally try to avoid discussing local politics with Nicholas because it gets a bit embarrassing to be regularly schooled on your own country's current politics and history by a foreigner :-).

Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College, Oxford
Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College, Oxford

Nicholas came to Boston this past week, and we were both delighted that we had time to work together in the studio. Photographing him was a joy on so many levels - good-humored banter alternating with gently poking fun of the other, as old friends do. Even though it had been almost a decade since I'd seen him last, we immediately relaxed into working together in the studio while amiably chatting away.

Boston MA academic portrait
Boston MA academic portrait

My goal with Nicholas' portraits was to capture his intelligence, warmth, kindness, and dry humor. In a few of the shots, I included his beautifully crafted titanium and leather crutches to create some environmental context. Yet front and center, I focused on Nick's expressive face and the intelligence and dry amusement that lights his eyes. As a photographer, capturing the life of the mind - and what a great mind I had to work with! - is a never-ending joy.

Starting over for grownups

Rocky DiRico, a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started competing after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins, making him the most awarded senior competitor in the history of sport karate. He, and my own joyful/humbling/frustrating/wonderful experience coming back to karate training as an adult learner, inspired this post. He is pictured here with his wife, Shihan Wendy DiRico.

Rocky DiRico, now a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started his karate training after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins. He, and my own experience coming back to karate as an adult learner, inspired this post.

Rocky DiRico, now a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started his karate training after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins. He, and my own experience coming back to karate as an adult learner, inspired this post.

 One of the things I most admire about children is that they're not afraid to fall down on their butts when they try something new.

They'll just keep trying new approaches, sometimes clever, sometimes awkward, to achieve what they want. No one expects children to be particularly good at anything. Figuring out how to pull life's strings is what childhood is all about, and kids, on the whole, think its really fun to learn new things. They grow creatively when they try to solve problems, and at least in the first few years, don't care how they are perceived while trying out new ideas.

Karate blog-9431
Karate blog-9431

Fast forward to adulthood and self-awareness and the need for basic competency in front of others. We've spent most of our formative years training to do something, whether it is singing, acting, or accountancy. Adults are proud of the skills we've gained and these are generally the ones we use in front of company (unless it's karaoke, and then, all bets are off as there's generally alcohol involved). Starting something new as an adult feels especially awkward, because our brains aren't as malleable, we're resistant to change, and don't want to look silly or incapable in front of others as we figure out our next new skill.

So what happens when we're forced to change and learn something new? Either because of circumstance, or because we're stifled and need to do something differently, the game changes and it's time to upgrade our skills. With the exception of some open-minded, driven, and adventurous souls, most adults react by feeling uncomfortable, perhaps even a bit scared. Some of us even get paralyzed, and don't know what to do next. So we sit and grind our wheels, using our energy to feel anxious, rather than harnessing the angst into something productive. We tend to cling to what we know, even though it is time to grow or change. Do any of these sound familiar?

- I want to start a new project that's different than my current work but I'm not sure where to start - I have an idea, but I just need motivation - I'm afraid I'm going to look like an idiot trying something new

So what should you do to kick yourself out of your paralysis? Shakespeare would say, "To thine own self be true." The ancient Greeks would say, "Know thyself". Francis Bacon would say, "Knowledge is power." And Nike would say, "Just do it."

When you don't know where to start in a new endeavor (career, project, hobby), start with your interests and daydreams, perhaps even document your current problems. Did you daydream about being an astronaut as a kid? Take a night course in astronomy, create a beautiful portrait series of local astronomy professors in the moonlight, or get a second-hand telescope and start a basic blog about your own discoveries as a new star seeker.

What are your favorite holidays and celebrations? What is on your bucket list, and you always hoped to do someday? Combine those interests into a new project. For example, if you're a autumn-loving, adrenaline-seeking photographer feeling stale, do a skydiving shoot on Halloween with models in full costume at sunset - mix, match, see what happens. Juxtaposition is your friend; combine bits of who you are to create something no one has seen before.

But most important is the mental game of getting out of our own way. I have a few suggestions from back when I worked in vocational psychology, which I'll write in layperson's terms so you don't fall asleep at your computer.

1. Write a worry journal

The basis of cognitive psychology is, "You are what you think." I'd add, "If it's on paper, it's not in your noggin." Write down all your worst fears, then counter each fear with a more positive likely scenario. E.g.:

Negative thought I will never learn how to use off-camera lighting because I'm not technical

Rational thought I can learn how to use off-camera lighting by taking a workshop that is aimed at lighting for beginners

2. Talk to a friend

Sometimes you need a sympathetic friend to kindly listen to you, and then kick you in the behind once you've unloaded your concerns. Better yet, create an accountability partnership so you both have someone to check in with about your new ventures.

Karate blog-2368
Karate blog-2368

3. Find a mentor

For some people, it really helps to find an advisor who has more knowledge and experience. Some mentors are volunteer professional contacts, others are coaches, and another source of great advisors are mental health professionals, for when you're truly feeling stuck. I currently advise a few photographers looking for both technical advice, portfolio reviews, and accountability - it can be a useful tool in your professional arsenal to get unstuck. But for many, all that is needed is someone who they meet with on a regular basis who has more experience than they do.

4. Let go of perfect

It's better to do something, anything, and get it out there than to create the most perfect creation that never sees the light of day. This is when you bring out the Nike slogan!

5. Make a date

Mark in your calendar the date you are going to have accomplished your goal of a new skill. Tell your accountability buddy.

6. Reward yourself

Whether it's a big box of chocolate, a marathon tv-watching session, or a weekend trip, make sure you promise and deliver a big reward for getting out of your comfort zone.

Jane Attanucci, poet

Jane recently came to me because her first book of poetry was about to be published by Finishing Line Press, and she was looking for a book jacket photo that represented both her and her work.

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She explained that she was looking for a quiet, contemplative image that would accurately represent her keen mind and curiosity, as well as the warmth of her personality. I learned that we both enjoy photographs that showcase honest, "in between" moments, conveying thoughtfulness and a investigative process, so her images needed to capture that sensibility. In addition to writing poetry, Jane has been a professor of psychology and department chair for many years, and meeting her and getting to chat with her was such a treat for me - I always relish the opportunity to chat with those who worked in psychology, as I did for several years.

To suit Jane, I shot against a lighter neutral background, and bounced light to create a delicacy and softness to her imagery. She has incredible green eyes, and we chose an outfit in a mossy green both to highlight her features, as well as to pull in the earthy quality of her new book, "First Mud."

Her book is available now through Finishing Line Press.

Light Work with Gregory Heisler at the Maine Media Workshops – Part Two

Various lighting setups being tweaked by Greg inside the studio/barn that was our home base for the week. I used my iPhone to take visual notes throughout the week - my memory works better through images than words.
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The third day, like all the following days, began with a critique of the previous day’s work. Sometimes it would be just the class, and sometimes we’d have a few models or actors join us. By the end of the week, they were all familiar faces, some of whom we’d hang out with at meals or after class. Many people would drift in and out throughout the day, and it was very friendly indeed; we all were teasing buddies by the end of the week. Speaking of meals, the food at Maine Media was AMAZING. The main chef, David Coyle, was an absolute delight, and was so solicitous of my food allergies; his goal was not only to have stuff I could eat, but to have absolutely delicious stuff I could eat not only at meals but in between. They had a whole shelf full of gluten-free goodies for my fellow celiacs, and it was unbelievably thoughtful. Usually, I’m just happy if I can eat something, anything, but the food for the whole week was wonderful.
Overpowering the sun with strobes, as the rest of we photographers (Jeannine,  and an actor - hi Amanda!, TJ, me) trying not to burn in the sun.
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In the afternoon, we had a demo that involved overpowering the sun with strobes outdoors using the shipyard next to our studio and classroom. We also learned about how the color of the light mirrors the position of the sun in the sky, and how to imitate that information while creating our own light in the studio or mixing light sources while outdoors.
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We then drove about a half-hour to an vintage hardware store (full of bits and bobs and books and taxidermy) and used some strobes that the Workshops had provided us with to create light indoors, Sadly, this was the one place that we felt frustrated, because the order that had been placed by Greg to the rental agency (MAC Group - boo hiss) that provided lights for the workshop had never come through, despite Greg, teaching assistants, and MMW's photo manager asking multiple times. We had to use old lights that we couldn’t adjust ratios from the battery pack, which was pretty challenging, and didn’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out a new lighting system instead of shooting within the limited window of time we had at the hardware store. We also interspersed the strobes with a Speedlite. Luckily, Chris Reis, our teacher’s assistant, helped us make the best of the equipment we had, and we got a few nice shots in before the end of the day. I really liked one of the images in particular I took of Sam, top left of the below set of images.
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The fourth day was spent in the studio, primarily, with several demos of lighting techniques which we then played around with in our groups of three. We worked with a couple of wonderful actor/models, Juliette and Stuart, and with multiple lights, including an absolutely enormous light source; I swear the umbrella was about 12 feet in diameter.
Greg showing me, TJ, and actor Heidi Hackney an image. Our 12-foot light source is behind us, camera right, which was used as part of the actor headshot lighting setup below. Photo credit: Stuart Green.
Heisler class snapshot by Stuart Green
The lovely Juliette
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The dashing Stuart. The goal of this assignment was to create actor headshots; each image portrays a different character that Stuart can portray - the first, more leading man, the second, more character actor.
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The final day was also spent much of the day in the studio, after the crit, and we went through more lighting setups including mimicking high daylight in the studio, and some outdoor lighting techniques with the models and actors. We took a look through Greg’s traveling kit, and he answered lots of questions about which lights and modifiers he can’t live without. He also photographed the entire class individually, to great amusement, capturing each of our personalities wonderfully. He had to take a couple of me because I tended to crack up when I was supposed to be holding a pose. But almost everyone else he completely captured on the first shot.
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Greg was kind enough to allow us a couple of extra hours of class on Saturday, right before we left, so that we could see a set up that he’d be using to photograph a client the following day. Again, he photographed many of us using a continuous light setup. At the end of the day, I gave Greg and enormous hug and thanked him for all he’d taught us, before traveling down the east coast, and catching a ride home with Sam and TJ.
All in all, a wonderful week, barring the hitch with equipment rentals, and I would definitely come back to Maine Media Workshops. I highly recommend Greg Heisler as a teacher, and am very glad for the experiences I had, all that I learned, and the warm relationships formed with colleagues and other creative folks formed while there.
Goodbye, beautiful Rockport, and thank you Greg Heisler and Maine Media Workshops...
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Meyer Psychology: Photographing psychologist and psychotherapist headshots in Arlington MA

Wynne Meyer blog-8157 As both a trained psychotherapist and photographer, it gives me great joy to receive a phone call from anyone in the mental health field who is looking to commission photography. Wynne and Cary Meyer are a husband-and-wife team who have a joint psychology and counseling practice in Arlington, MA. They are warm and kind people, really delightful to work with and get to know, and I wanted to make sure that potential clients would get a great first impression from seeing their headshots on their practice's webpage.

Wynne, a psychotherapist, is a lovely and insightful person who integrates mindfulness training into her cognitive-behavioral work. Many of her clients are women, parents, and couples, and she wanted to make sure her clients would get a sense of her personality and could also relate to her when we discussed how we could best approach her portrait. I took a very honest approach to photographing her, and I think the image she chose really captures her thoughtfulness.Cary Meyer blog-

Cary, a sharply intelligent psychologist with a warm sense of humor, specializes in working with men as they transition between life stages. He works with clients on both relationship and career issues, and is also a staff psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. His image is a bit more business-like, but we also both wanted to capture his approachability as well.

It was wonderful to work with Cary and Wynne, and even with the few hours I spent with them, I could tell that their clients would be in good hands.

Portrait of an Executive Director of a nonprofit: Donna Smith Sharff of the Children's Room

2014-03-18_0002 Donna Smith Sharff is the Executive Director of the Children's Room, of Arlington, MA, which provides support for grieving children, teens, and families. She is a lovely woman, inside and out, and I wanted to capture her warmth and depth of character for this shoot.

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Boston lawyer portraits

Sharyn Sooho is more than a divorce lawyer; she's a Newton, MA attorney with an art history background. When she came to me, she was looking for something beyond the traditional portraits of lawyers with a bookcase in the background. She wanted, instead, the personalities of she and her associates to shine through her imagery. As a divorce attorney, people come to her group in times of great stress, and she wanted her future clients to feel at ease even before she met them. We worked together to make sure the warm and caring personalities of Sharyn and her delightful associates, Lindsay and Jessica, came through front and center.

Head shots for the traditionalist and untraditionalist (sometimes the same person)

Andrea came to me looking for a head shot for her professional LinkedIn profile. She wanted an image that was professional, flattering, yet warm and approachable. But after we got a great professional image for her, she was up for having some fun creating a head shot with a little more drama, contrast and light. Each image shows a different and wonderful side of her vibrant and creative personality.