Seniorista is the personalized senior-rep concept at LaMon Photography. My girls are Senioristas, and they are my greatest joy as a photographer. Traditional rep programs are dead. Or at least they should be. I tried every variation imaginable, and the benefit to the studio was negligible. I could see the eyes of my reps glaze over as I talked about credit for referrals. It wasn’t fun. Teenagers crave fun. It was only when I changed my focus to making happy memories, and stopped asking for any referrals whatsoever, that my program took off. Being a Seniorista is a privilege. And it’s not free.
I don’t claim to be an expert, as I am just now finishing up my first year with the Seniorista program. But it’s working. Most of our shoots are all about the girls, but I also crave to teach them community service in the process. For example, each girl was paired with a shelter dog, she styled her own shoot with the dog, and we had a contest to see which pup was adopted first. At Christmas, my Senioristas spent many hours at the local Boys and Girls Club helping to prepare an amazing Christmas party for area children.
Our most recent project, however, has created a small buzz in the senior-photography community, and I am writing now to answer some of the questions I have been asked. I remade classic black-and-white images of Hollywood screen sirens. Not only did my Senioristas love it, but I have been flooded with questions and requests from underclassmen interested in being a part of my team in upcoming years. The concept isn’t new to me. I did it years ago as a special for any client that was interested. I knew how much work it would be, but I knew the potential was great.
The first step was deciding which star each Seniorista should portray. I posted photos of the girls on social media and asked the general public which screen siren they most resembled. The ultimate choice was the senior’s, but since most of these teenagers didn’t even know the name of a single screen siren, I felt they needed guidance. With the help of myself and their families and fans, they each made excellent selections. Each girl had at least one feature that was eerily in common with her star.
Once selections were made, I set out to find three images of each star that I thought we could easily remake. This turned out to be a more difficult task than I imagined. I had very specific parameters: Must be black-and-white, must showcase the face, must have easily-duplicated props, must be modest. We are talking about teenagers here. Save the cleavage shots for their twenties. (In case you aren’t aware, Brigitte Bardot rarely took a photo where she was fully clothed.)
After three photos were selected of each Hollywood screen siren, I once again posted the options to social media, allowing the public to decide which of the three photos they wanted to see remade. It added an element of suspense for the girls, not knowing which photo they would portray. It also helped to build hype around the project.
Next, it was time to plan the shoots. I reached out to friend/client/hair-and-makeup stylist, Jordan Haley, and asked if she was up for the project. She gladly agreed. She quoted the girls a fantastic price to do everyone’s hair and makeup. I felt an obligation to keep the out-of-pocket expenses of my Senioristas as low as possible, so I started gathering inexpensive props. I began calling this project my Goodwill remakes. I actually considered behind-the-scene shots, but decided against it because it most definitely would have destroyed the allure. I know these girls thought I was crazy. My mother is an excellent seamstress, which helped immensely. She not only made the frog closures in the Veronica Lake remake above, but she also took a $3 curtain panel from Goodwill and fashioned it into a hooded jacket for the Grace Kelly remake.
My Seniorista that had chosen to portray Raquel Welch messaged me, while at an antique store, with a picture of a vintage white fur stole she was considering buying. “Should I get this,” she asked. “Nah,” I replied. “I have a white-fur bathmat I bought from Wal-Mart a few years back. We will just pin that around your shoulders.” And her background? The minute I saw it, it immediately reminded me of a sequined backdrop with old window frames, of which I just happened to have several in my garage.
Hedy Lamarr’s headpiece was remade with a single earring out of a set that was on clearance at Wal-Mart for $3. Her fan was found on Etsy. The tulle was something my seamstress mother had plenty of. Ava Gardner’s cape and matching dress were swaths of metallic fabric I had in a tub, just waiting for the right project.
It wasn’t until we were actually shooting the Rita Hayworth remake that Jordan, our stylist, commented that the fluff ball on the star’s left shoulder was not hair, it was actually a fur collar. That shut down the whole shoot. I wasn’t doing it without a fur collar. So Jordan ran home, ripped one off of a coat she had in her closet, and came back to save the day.
I found a prom dress at Goodwill for around $6 that had rhinestone straps and a rhinestone buckle. The straps were used for Liz Taylor’s photo and the buckle was used in Sophia Loren’s remake.
Oh, and the posing! My goodness, what looked like a simple pose was always anything but. We would shoot a little bit, download, make adjustments and shoot some more. Something just always seemed to be a quarter of an inch off the mark. Remaking someone else’s pose is not easy. Whereas the stars were doing a pose that came naturally to them, the Senioristas struggled to make facial expressions and movements that did not feel natural to them. Looking relaxed was quite the challenge.
How much editing to do was a constant battle. Did I try to duplicate the original picture, or did I want my girls to look like themselves? For instance, in the Lana Turner remake, my Seniorista, Sydney, had darker hair. I attempted lightening it to platinum, but it just looked fake to me. I didn’t want her to be unrecognizable. So I lightened it some, mostly the roll on top of her head.
At this point in the process, we have again turned it over to social media to vote on the public’s favorite remake. The Seniorista with the most votes will receive a free photo of her image. I worry and fret if a girl seems to be lagging behind in the contest, about her feelings being hurt, but it really appears to be boiling down to which girl wants to win the most, and is pushing her family and friends to share and vote. In the end, I think my Senioristas know that I gave every single shoot my everything, and if they don’t win, it just means they look more like themselves than anyone else.