A successful headshot is all about the eyes. When you can sense an intelligence behind them, or a challenge, tease or sly sense of humor, then you know that the photographer has captured their subject’s true essence, their genuine, authentic self. (You want to avoid dead fish eyes at all cost. Soulful is good, but not vapid.) The four photographers listed below have that uncanny ability. Their work has clarity, simplicity, and I recommend them unreservedly.
The superb pictures of me that you see on this web site were taken by Jordan Matter, a master of his craft. Shooting with Jordan was a blast: a fun, relaxing, incredibly positive experience. Jordan is so good at what he does that a lot of photographers around town have attempted to copy his style. He’s the original, though, and while he ain’t cheap, he’s worth every penny. BTW, he’s also one of the best dance photographer’s working today. (And just so you know, the photos of me have not been retouched, so any wrinkles are mine alone, and should not reflect on Jordan’s work.)
Lately I’ve been asking people who did their fantastic headshots and getting the same answer again and again: Shirin Tinati. The excellence of Shirin’s work is only matched by her open and giving personality. For what it’s worth — and I think a lot — she’s one of the loveliest people on the planet. I think she’s particularly good at shooting younger people, perhaps because she has such a youthful, life-affirming energy herself. Her photographs have life, joy and presence.
J. DEMETRIE PHOTOGRAPHY
Sometimes it takes terrific actors to produce terrific headshots. The team of photographer Jovanie Demetrie McCleary and his wife, make-up artist Anastasia Lange, have been taking great photographs and giving great performances for years. As successful actors themselves, they speak your language and know, inherently, what a good headshot requires. The simplicity and directness of their work never fails to impress me. Additionally, they’re fans of dogs and wine; my kind of people.
MATTHEW MURPHY: murphy made
I was recently introduced to Matthew Murphy’s work by a student who was considering him for her headshots. I’d never heard of the man — I’m obviously late to the party, given the number of celebrity clients he has — but was immediately impressed with his work. As I said above, it’s all about the eyes, and you’re immediately and inexorably drawn to the eyes in a Matthew Murphy photograph. I’m so pleased to have discovered him. The work of Matthew’s associate, Evan Zimmerman, is equally accomplished.
Other photographers whose work I greatly admire:
Darnell Bennett Photography: www.darnellbennettphotography.com/headshotcollection/
Dirty Sugar: www.dirtysugar.smugmug.com
Genine Esposito: http://www.genineesposito.com/headshot
Melissa Hamburg: www.melissahamburg.com
Emily Lambert: http://www.emilylambertphoto.com
Daryl A. Getman: www.dagphotog.com
ACTING BUSINESS BOOT CAMP
I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing Peter Pamela Rose for many years. She (yes, she) has had a successful career as an actress, voice-over artist and manager, and now has turned her considerable talents to Life/Career Coaching. (She’s fully licensed, by the way.) She offers incredible weekend-long workshops, and regardless of where you are in your career, there’s no-one in the city better equipped to help you answer the question, “What’s next?” I’m proud to call her a friend as well as a colleague. She’s practical, intuitive, motivating and, one of these days, I hope to become as smart as she!
Sometimes career coaching is not enough. Sometimes the thing that’s getting in the way of you is…you. My friends Robert and Michelle Colt are brilliant at getting into the minds of actors (maybe because they’re such good ones themselves). At Inside Game, they explore the “quantum connection” between the brain and nervous system and the emotional stumbling blocks that prevent actors from moving forward. It may sound like New Age mumbo-jumbo, but I’ve been on many a SAG panel with them and can vouch for how sensible and profound their techniques are in practice. I always say that half of becoming a successful actor is psychological. The scores of actors the Colts have helped are proof positive.
A few years ago I was looking for someone to help teach my fourth week improv class, and some highly intelligent and discerning person suggested Lori Hammel. I wish I could remember who that was so I could add them to my will. Lori and I clicked, and it’s been a real joy getting to know and work with her. Lori offers career coaching on a one on one basis; her work on Broadway, in regional theater and in commercials makes her an ideal choice to help you figure out how you fit into this crazy business.
BROOKE AND MARY
I’m not, by any means, the only game in town when it comes to studying commercials. The incomparable Brooke Thomas of Brooke Thomas Casting and Mary Egan Callahan of House Casting teach a fun and informative 3-night class. They’ve been doing this since 2001 and have a very easy-going, supportive style. Their approach to teaching is different than mine, but it’s always valuable to get another perspective on the work — and have two other casting directors get to know who you are.
KELLY KIMBALL STUDIO
You learn to listen in this business, and sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Or, to put it another way, you pay attention to what people aren’t saying. Kelly Kimball is a teacher I’ve heard nothing but good things about. Her students adore her, and it’s no wonder why. I’ve taught at the studio and have been greatly impressed with the safe, positive atmosphere she’s created. She’s an awesome, intuitive teacher, and a lovely person. The Kimball Studio, by the way, recently came in at #2 on TimeOut’s list of the best acting studios in NYC. Not bad at all.
TERRY KNICKERBOCKER STUDIO
Maybe the name Terry Knickerbocker is familiar to you because he was called a “pioneer” and “a high-profile acting coach” by the New York Times. Or maybe because Sam Rockwell thanked him during his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Or maybe because word of mouth about him and his relatively new studio (Terry taught at the Esper Studio for many years before branching out on his own) is off the charts. Regardless, you’d be smart to check out this welcoming, relaxed, super cool place. Terry reached out to me recently to teach commercials for him, and I couldn’t be more honored.
THE FREEMAN STUDIO
Scott Freeman heads one of the best studios in New York, with a brilliant roster of teachers, including Tony Award nominees. The studio offers a myriad of classes, ranging from scene study (with Scott himself) to auditioning for musicals to clowning. An inspiring, creatively vibrant place to study.
Students of mine have taken classes at or been enrolled in programs at the following studios and have had wonderful things to say:
The following are the best places in New York to meet the casting directors and agents who can help move your career to the next level. They offer classes, seminars and meet-and-greets with the best of the best. I’ve had the honor and privilege to teach for all of them.
Andy Roth is the sensei of voice-over teachers, a kind, down-to-earth guy who will demystify the process for you in simple, useful ways. I’ve seen him in action on a number of occasions and have been in awe of what he does. He’s taught me a thing or two, and I thought I knew everything! (Kidding…)
It was a happy accident that led me to Ian Robinson, the terrifically talented, über cool guy who designed my web site. He’s fast, precise and very attentive; he returns e-mails quickly and provides superb technical support. Of course you can make your own web site, but if you want something professional, simple and beautiful to behold, Ian’s your guy.