Expert Advice

BackStage @ Fashion Shows

Helen Oppenheim | January 12, 2016 | 10:23 AM
High Life Crimps by Edward Tricomi, Warren-Tricomi Salons, for the Douglas Hannant Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week Show at the Plaza Hotel; Makeup by Maude LaCeppe for Le Metier de Beaute.
Photo By Helen Oppenheim Photo 1 of 11
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Peter Gray described his big teased, voluminious French Twists, modern '50s glam hair, as "hot, sexy, bonkers" at the Badgley Mischka Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week Show sponsored by Moroccanoil.
Photo By Helen Oppenheim Photo 3 of 11
Man Ray-inpsired surreal hair and fashions for Catherine Maladrino's Fall 2009 NY Fashion Week Show at the Rainbow Room. Netted chignons by Odile Gilbert, hair color by Eva Scrivo, both for Wella/Sebastian; Makeup: Tom Pecheux for MAC.
Photo By Helen Oppenheim Photo 4 of 11
Shimmering beads embedded casually into easy-going, gently twisted chignon by Orlando Pita, Orlo Salon, for Carolina Herrera's Spring 2010 New York Fashion Week show sponsored by Moroccanoil.
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'50s-inpsired romantic updo, crimped and teased out to there, by Aveda's Jon Reyman for the Fall 2009 Academy of Art University School of Fashion Show for graduating students.
Photo By Helen Oppenheim Photo 6 of 11
Glam offbeat festive hair, with gold leaves and rose/antique gold pigments painted on the hair for the Toni Maticevski New York Fashion Week Show for Fall 2010; Hair by Rodney Cutler, Cutler Salons/Redken; Makeup/Hair Painting by Dhay Naidu for MAC.
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Rockabilly quiffs rising high, a take on the '50s in the '80s, for the colorful rock star fashions by Custo Barcelona for the New York Fashion Week Fall 2009 show, by Eugene Soulieman for Wella Professionals; Makeup by Gato for Maybelline, Spain.
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Fab cascading romantic beautifully executed, long-lasting- waves by Esther Langham sponsored by Moroccanoil for the Nanette Lepore Fall 2010 New York Fashion Week Show; Makeup by Makky for MAC; Model; Brianna; Model: Katya Kulyzhka
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A favorite photo, a faux wavy bob blended into a long wavy ponytail, by Jorge Luis, Privé Salon/Products for the Luis Antonio Spring 2015 New York Fashion Week Show. Makeup by Dillon Peña; Model: Katya Kulyzhka
Photo By Helen Oppenheim Photo 10 of 11
Like the previous photo, this one got a full page in Peluquerias. A faux wavy bob blended into a long wavy ponytail, by Jorge Luis, Privé Salon/Products for the Luis Antonio Spring 2015 New York Fashion Week Show; Makeup by Dillon Peña; Model: Katya Kulyzhka
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Most people don't. Work with photographers backstage, that is. Most hairdressers are totally oblivious photographers are there backstage photographing hair that may not end up looking it's best, sometimes in media reaching millions or online for posterity. And making all the time and effort put into the hair for the show more than worth while instead of, for the sponsor at least, a waste of money and effort.

Most lead hairdressers, for fashion and hair shows, do not train their hairdressers how to work with photographers at all. They should. Because most do not have a clue, especially for runway shows or backstage at hair shows.

Know, dear hairdressers, and this goes for makeup artists too, to be aware, and sometimes give the photographer a great photograph by stopping for a minute, take yourself and your hands away from the head for a minute. Or even less. A photograph takes the time of a click, which for me is maybe 10 seconds. Would that slow anyone up? I don't think so.

Getting Personal.

I have been in the business for decades, I have been photographing backstage since 1997, and I know my stuff, so I know what happens is most photographers end up taking photos with the hair half done, or not looking as good as it might, or with hands in the photos which often make the photo not usable and, my case, not possible to get a full page. Or, reaching less people than it could. It's good to remember, I repeat, that the photo could end up reaching thousands or millions – even more than the audience out there at the show or event. Which is, of course, the top priority, but think of The Big Picture too. I know many photographers don't care, can’t tell the difference but many can. I can. See more photos, and many how-to's on my website (New York Fashions Weeks, ShowTime and on eleven blogs.)

Some hairdressers are very photo, model and image savvy. The legendary John Sahag would often drop everything, however hectic he was backstage during a Fashion Week show, to come and put his magic hands in hair being photographed if he saw it was not as good as it might be. He had eyes in the back of his head, was very aware.

Jon Reyman of Aveda has been known to bring his chair forward, sometimes in the tightest of spaces, so I can photo a how-to from the back of the head as he works, and he will come over and help one of his less experienced hairdressers make the hair look better if he sees the hair could be better.

Peter Gray, a leading lead hairdresser, makes sure, in advance, with the powers that be, I can stay at his shows to photo First Looks with hair finished, models dressed, accessorized and made up, as well as the prep, and has insisted I am with him if I am about to be slung out; he has also firmly taken hold of my hand to steer me to First Looks with him. 

Kelly Cutrone, who owns People's Revolution PR and produces her own shows, has let me stay backstage through most of her shows for over a decade. The girls at Siren PR work hard to get permission for me to stay for First Looks and often through their shows for Catwalk by TIGI.

Anne Hardy and Jon Feldman of AHPR Group, work it, both to set it all up for me, in advance, and to be able to stay backstage through the show (my preferred thing to do at all shows) as does Edward Tricomi of Warren-Tricomi, although he used to be oblivious and would stand there, even if I was photographing hair in need a little touch up that retouching would not help. He is now aware. There are others who get it, like Laurent Duforges and Jorge Luis or Privé. But most do not and do not care. Most just need some training.

My dream for backstage at fashion, and hair shows, is to be provided by the lead hairdresser with my very own hairdresser in tow, or a savvy assistant, to be there with me and my camera, at all times, to perfect so much great hair I can't photo because it needs a little touch up by one of the team. Is anyone taking notes?! But it's not all about me, know that there are other great photographers out there who often are not able to do your great hair justice.

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