I thought I was just getting a couple of headshots when I contacted Jesse Hyde and Andi Roberts back in the fall of 2012. These two run Hot Tomato Pinup Academy, a body-positive photography experience. The retro look they create so well seemed like it could be a fun theme for some headshots.
Our first meeting was over sushi. Apparently the mutual love of raw fish rolls was a good omen for both me and them. After we chatted and joked long enough to know we were a good fit for each other, Andi proceeded to walk me through a series of questions (what colors do you love? what time of day? what settings? what clothes?) that at first seemed simple enough, but ended up being hard to answer. I had never really allowed myself the luxury of dreaming up my ideal photo shoot. I'm much better at figuring out how to make do with what I have. Andi and Jesse set up a Pinterest board for me to start pinning visual inspirations. (Pinterest is an amazing inspiration collection system. We used it heavily to dialogue about the shoot. I highly recommend it.) At first it was difficult to pin down the things that reflected me as a singer. Slowly, things started materializing. I allowed myself to dream bigger and bigger in terms of images, colors, and ambience, but I still couldn't bring everything together into a cohesive vision. Thankfully, this is one of Andi's greatest talents.
At our next meeting, which began with a hike around McDonough Park and a private yoga session by the pond with the lovely Lori Woodyard of Full Circle Yoga, Andi presented her thoughts to me based on my pins, and I could finally start to picture the shoot. It would have two scenes: the reflection scene and the performance scene, both of which would be part of a Moroccan-themed private party. Rachel Hyde, librarian/author/costumer/creator extraordinare, was then brought on board for costuming, styling, and general awesome idea help. Andi also wanted to bring in Caroline Eels Waller of Passiflora for some flower arrangements. I had been wanting some of Caroline's amazing arrangements in my life, and having them permanently in photo form was a thrilling idea.
Over the course of a couple months, these ladies worked with me continuously to make sure that I not only felt the vision was what I wanted, but that I also felt as comfortable, beautiful, and genuine as possible within that vision. The process became so much more than just a photo shoot. I began the process with a list of all of the flaws I wanted to camouflage, but I ended up seeing myself more beautifully, not in spite of the imperfections, but often because of them. I felt my body and voice make some positive changes. A few areas of long-held tension in my body released. Some new vocal colors were added to my sound. You sing and perform differently when you have less to apologize for.
The shoot itself couldn't have been more perfect. My friends the Lazers offered their back patio as the setting, and the Hot Tomato team transformed it into an amazing Moroccan garden party. Rachel and makeup artist Valerie Crabtree made me feel like royalty as they helped me get ready. Dear friends came to be party guests/models, and my colleague Steve Heffner arrived to play acoustic bass. What was supposed to be a rainy day turned into a perfectly magical evening.
And if all of that awesomeness wasn't enough, my partner of 6 years asked me to marry him as soon as the last shot was taken that night. (I said yes! Andi captured my face at that moment --->)
I received my final edits last night, and I couldn't be more pleased. Click here to see the pictures!
Andi photographs in both the Marietta, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan areas through Roberts Family Photography. Jesse runs Hot Tomato Pinup Academy out of Belpre, Ohio. My sincere thanks to them and the rest of the team for making the shoot such an amazing experience.