My Mountain Man portrait of actor Ron Kebic has been one of my favorite photos in my portfolio since I shot it two years ago. I still grin whenever I see this wild looking character staring back at me.
When Ron contacted me in September to ask if I’d like to do some more photos before he cut off all of his hair, I jumped at the chance. I knew this was an opportunity to do something really fun. I proposed that we do a Mountain Man Makeover. I would take Ron to my barber, cut off half of his hair, and do bizarre portrait like that. Ron was game for it, and was good enough to wait for me to return from China so we could set everything up.
We shot these portraits today. When Ron showed up at my door, I was shocked to see that his hair and beard were even wilder than they were last time I saw him. I started by doing some “before” photos to commemorate the four years that Ron spent growing this crazy mane. To me, there’s no point in doing the exact same thing twice, so I tried to get some different emotional content into these shots.
Then, it was time to head to my local barber shop, Gus & Son. Lou (the “son”) was tasked with returning the Mountain Man to civilization, 50% at a time. Gus was amazed at the amount of hair that came off of Ron’s head during this half of the procedure. When your hair can impress a barber who’s been cutting hair for over 50 years, that’s really saying something.
After the half-cut, we headed back to the studio to play with the new look. Being that photos read from left to right, I had originally thought I wanted to shave the left side of Ron’s head first, so it would be like a transformation from wild to civilized. However, I remembered that Ron’s left eyebrow is the one that raises, so I opted to go for the right side instead. Although his 50% look was clearly ridiculous–especially in broad daylight walking down the street–it was important to me for the photos to come across more mystical or mysterious rather than funny. I wonder if I achieved that?
Finally, we returned to Gus and Lou to finish up Ron’s new look, complete with an old-fashioned straight-razor shave and a hot towel treatment.
As we walked out of the barber shop, Ron was marveling at the feel of the new cut, and reminisced about how women used to cross the street to avoid him at night. “Welcome to anonymity,” I told him.