Many, many moons ago, I was a struggling actor who supplemented my income by working in another creative niche — photography. Sometimes I took actor’s headshots in my home studio. At other times, I contracted with a number of community theaters or schools to take photos of either a dress rehearsal or a final technical rehearsal, then offer to sell custom 8x10s to the cast.
It was interesting for me because I got to see shows I may not have been able to see normally. The theater benefitted because, as an actor, I could anticipate where the action would be and set up for the candid shot without stopping the show to pose a phony picture.
The downside was the hours I spent in my darkroom — that’s right, there was film long before instant digital pictures. How many moons did ya think “Many, many moons ago” was?
Actors love seeing themselves in photos, and they spent accordingly. A large cast, such as a musical, was quite profitable, but I earned every penny. The laundry of our duplex apartment was always converted “temporarily” into my darkroom. Chemical trays for development, an enlarger, timers, and hanging cords for hundreds of prints to dry. But — I digress.
Typically, the theater framed and hung 8x10s of each actor in the lobby. As it happened for this one show, a small role was played by an elderly woman of 85 who didn’t have a headshot because it was her first show. Community theater, remember? By the time they asked me to take her photo, I only had one frame of film left on my roll, but I agreed.
I sat her in a chair on the stage, got the best lighting, and positioned her friend off to her side to put her at ease.
She wasn’t a natural and looked awkward. I had one shot to get it right. I smiled and laughed a lot before I even lifted the camera. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Finally, the thought flashed through my mind, and it would either work, or the shot would never happen, and I would be banned from the theater.
She scrutinized me as I bent over and lifted the camera into position.
“Had any lately?” I said.
Her eyes sparkled, she broke into a huge grin, and I clicked.
She turned to her friend and laughingly whispered, “Did you hear what he said to me?”
And — another satisfied customer.