I’m a people watcher. I develop fascinations over certain reoccurring characters that unknowingly pop in an out of my life. I fell in love Adam Goldberg’s story of such character, Sally…
Sally Salon: The bane of my existence.
I’ve been seeing the same haircutter, Atila, since I was 13 give or take a few deviations. Over the years we’ve bopped around from salon to salon and these days he works at Dan’s Salon on Fairfax, next to the decidedly trendier Goodform. The clientele consists of Atila’s long time customers, these agro Mafioso types who tell you to fuck off if they think you’re taking their parking space, then pontificate loudly while they get groomed and waxed like girls, and, finally there’s a group of stopped in time ladies who ritually get their hair maintained, dyed, and set. One in particular, Sally, I’ve had my eye on for some time. She’s my Eggleston simply waiting to happen. Well, Eggleston would have just made it happen by now. But I have wanted to do a proper sit down with her. And through Atila, as she rarely if ever addresses me personally, she denies me regularly.
“For a hundred bucks, ” she’d tell him. Well, two weeks ago when I went in for a cut she was there and he had coincidentally talked her down to 50. I told her I’d need her for a half hour. This boggled her. “A half hour for a picture? I don’t have a half hour,” she said sort of me to me, sort of to Atila, but mainly to a beautiful angora grey sweater with a rhinestone broach both of which offset the shock of red sitting atop her head. Atila reminded her she spent hours in the salon every Saturday. In her defense and to her credit she is taking care of her ailing mother with whom she lives and who used to accompany Sally to the salon. Now Atila goes to their house and does her mother’s hair in bed.
Anyway, we set a date. A date was finally set. Today. I haven’t been feeling great, a hacking cough for weeks, fairly convinced I won’t see the new year, and the last thing I really felt like doing when today rumbled around was hauling my abundance of gear (I don’t know how to use or bring only one camera format) across town on a shitty drizzly day. But this simply has eaten at me for too long. I would get my Eggleston Grey Gardens cum Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Diva of Dan’s Salon if I keeled over doing it. I would capture her on Polaroid, Impossible integral, 35mm Fuji 400x, 6x7 on 800 Portra, and…6x9 Fuji T64 a combination I imagined would make Bill E. proud…
When I arrived she was just getting finished. I sheepishly took some shots around the shop. I always photograph Atila, with his bright blue hair, faded dragon tattoos and lived in face the ex-punk rocker has become one of my regular male muses. I shot some exteriors while there was still daylight (God forbid she actually arrive before sunset for 50 bucks) just to establish context. I imagined a grand documentary portfolio of Sally and salon.
Finally, after about 20 minutes she emerged from the bathroom and I asked her if I could take a shot. She muttered something demurely as she bent to rifle through her purse and I said “Yes, you don’t mind?” She muttered into her purse again. “No,” I said, “you don’t want to?”
She looked up and almost at me in the eyes.
“No. I told Jack [one of Atila’s names]. I really don’t feel comfortable. I’m flattered that you want to take my picture, but I really don’t feel comfortable.”
I didn’t press here. I thought, fuck it, if she’s going to play hard to get, then so am I. I turned away and began to photograph everything else in the shop, Atila’s customer’s dachshund, but she didn’t care. She got right on the phone. Chatted for some time. Checked her hair. My girlfriend, Roxanne, said she overheard her telling her hairdresser, “He wants to take my picture because of my hair. But I don’t know who he is.” Which is really bullshit. Although she would be hard pressed to do a background check—she doesn’t own a computer—Atila and I have gone to great pains to ensure her I am not a pervert. Though I am, in this particular case that fact is irrelevant. I showed her my photography website last time we met. “Classy, right?” I told her—and it’s true—I simply wanted to photograph her for my book, because I like classic looks, I loved her look. She even showed up today wearing the same sweater (I had asked Atila to ask her if she would) and she apparently even asked Atila how she looked before I arrived. We had a date, goddamnit.
I stood there, denied, with my dearth of gear and a hacking cough…
And then, fuck it, I did what anybody worth their weight in Eggleston would do. I pretended to shoot Atila and Roxanne who was standing by him and snuck some shitty overexposed, underexposed, color fringed, soft, obscured shots of Sally anyway. Grabbed the Leica and maybe I got something on film but a mile away with a 35mm.
But I got her.
I took her soul. She took my Saturday. It’s a fair trade.
PS: Note the rubbers over her shoes. She is good. The best maybe.
I know this simple, slighty-victorious joy very well. Connecting, on however small a level, to a complete stranger who has inadvertently stolen a significant amount of your inner thoughts and wonder. If Sally’s trust is ever completely won over, I look forward to seeing what comes of it.