The eye of the beholder – One shoot, two photographers with Tom Chapman

Tom Chapman, men’s grooming specialist and salon owner at Tom Chapman Hair Design in Torquay, poses an interesting challenge to two photographers; capture the same models sporting the same hair looks, but from their own unique perspectives.

“Three years ago I met Rob Grist, a photographer with an amazing eye for hair whom I have since worked with countless times on all kinds of shoots, both in the studio and on location. Together we have built a huge portfolio of images that vary greatly from collection to collection and have been published in many countries and across many different publications. However, while looking through my back-catalogue, I wondered: “What would this collection look like if it had been edited by someone else or if another photographer had taken these images?”

“This gave me an idea for an experiment; what if I organised a shoot with four models, using one hair and wardrobe team, but invited two photographers to take the images, completely separate with no interaction at all? I thought it would be really interesting to see how each photographer would perceive the exact same model and hair looks. Would they shoot in black and white or colour? Choose a studio or location backdrop? Go for artificial or natural lighting? Crop close to focus purely on the hair or keep the shots full length? The options were seemingly limitless. I also thought it would be interesting to see the reaction from my peers and hair publications, as well as friends and clients alike –  after all, we all have our own opinions and tastes.

“I was also curious to see whether it would be seen as a competition between the two people behind the lens, and if it would spur them on to out do each other! With that said, there seemed to be a lot of potential problems with getting two photographers to work together and I wondered whether this was maybe why I hadn’t seen it done often before. I already knew I wanted to start with Rob, but I needed to find another snapper with a contrasting style. I suddenly thought of Andy Knowles, another local photographer, who used a completely different set up. He had photographed some of our TCXHD Salon Session evenings where we hold live music events in our salon, but I had never worked with him on a hair shoot before. He is more of a street photographer, and pitting him against Rob, I thought it would almost be impossible to end up with the same images from both shoots.

“Once I had booked both guys, we set a date and confirmed the models. The collection was to feature men’s hair, with all of the models prepped with variations on (and styles influenced by) the “Caesar Crop”, a style I think will be hugely popular in 2017. The day was split into two, with one photographer shooting in the morning and the other in the afternoon to ensure two completely independent experiences. I did plan with both Rob and Andy before their sessions, just so we knew exactly what we were going to do on the day. For me, planning is always so important to get the most from collection shoot – without it a lot can be missed – although you must be prepared for change depending on weather, models dropping out, technical issues or many other unexpected circumstances.

“The day began with the already prepped models and myself arriving at my salon early in the morning to touch up their hair ready for the first shoot with Andy. It was to take place on location and we had planned to go to the beach, but as the weather was not ideal we swapped to a local run-down car park to take advantage of the cover. It meant we still had natural light, as well as the fluorescent lighting in car park itself, and there was no need for any additional rigs. Each of the four models were photographed in different locations in the car park using a variety of angles, light levels and back drops.

Take one:

“When Tom first pitched his idea for “Cropped” I ran through a number of ideas, but fairly quickly decided I wanted to shoot in a style that I felt reflected the cut itself: sharp, saturated, tightly cropped and with plenty of contrast. I am primarily a street and lifestyle photographer and try to stay true to what is in front of me – not using flashes or manipulated light where possible. For this location we chose a multi-story car park where we could use different perspectives for each model. We would rely only on the available light sources – namely the fluorescent down lights in the building and the natural light coming in through the open sides. This approach gave us images with wildly varying colour palettes, strong contrast – but also contrast in places you wouldn’t normally get with a studio shoot. This gave a unique texture to the photos and allowed me to create the heavily saturated, darker, grittier images I was looking for as a counterpoint to a lot of the studio based images you see in the industry.”
-Andy Knowles

“Once we had got all the images we needed, the models and I returned to the salon to meet Rob. There, we set up a studio with a backdrop and lights – a much more controlled environment where the whole look of the image can be edited with the flick of a switch  – and again, all four models were photographed. Once both snappers had all their images, they went away to edit and retouch them, further individualising the final photo sets. We decided to select three shots of each model from each photographer so we didn’t have too much choice, and then narrowed it down to one of each model taken by each photographer.

Take two:

“I went for a simplistic set up, and decided to shoot in a very tightly cropped style to highlight the work and skills of Tom. Shooting against a plain grey backdrop also helped with my intention to convert to black and white. I used a deep octa style modifier and after a couple of test shots, settled on a look I was happy with. The octa gives a high contrast almost harsh light that suits the male barber look and enhances my own style of work. Its a great modifier for showing off texture and small detail in the hair. Getting as much right in camera saves a lot of time later on the computer so if you’ve got people to shoot in the future, don’t be afraid to let the photographer waste a few snaps at the beginning getting the look you want.”
-Rob Grist

“Now, placing the images side by side, you can really see the difference an alternative creative perspective can make. Both collections look completely different and I’m sure each person viewing them will make up their own mind as to which they prefer. I really hoped to cause discussions around which is ‘best’ and what other people may have done differently. I really enjoyed the process and it has given me the idea of doing the same thing, but with one photographer and two hair stylists to see how each stylist envisions the brief. Maybe that’s one for 2017…”





Sign up for FREE access to the Salon Smart HUB

Join the Club

Creative HEAD on Instagram