I had the opportunity to make a few photographs of Kay Davis today. She was a jazz singer who, in the 1940's, toured with Duke Ellington and the Ellington Band for 6 years. She is now a ripe young age of 90. I called her last week to set up the day and time, but never had a good opportunity to go over with her on the phone what we would be doing or even how long it would take. Being 90, her memory is not what it used to be, so trying to plan any details with her wouldn't have been an easy task.
I took all the equipment I needed with me, plus some as usual. I went to her home for the shoot, so I had no idea what her or her home would be like. Big, small, clean, messy, old, or new; I had no clue! I spoke with my editor and art director before hand, and I had an idea of what we'd be doing for the shoot in my head. I was lucky enough to borrow an antique microphone from a friend of a friend. We set up a background, and I put a spot grid on one strobe and aimed it towards the microphone. The goal was to simulate stage lighting. I needed several shots of her, but this was the main shot I wanted to get.
One of the first comments when we entered her home was for us to hurry, so I was a little worried at first there wouldn't be time to work in the shots I needed. I didn't have an assistant for me either, so I knew it would be a little bit slower than normal setting up the studio equipment. I encouraged her to get comfortable for a few minutes while we set up, so she sat on the couch with her small dog Coco (Chanel she informed me). Once I was set up, and her makeup was applied, we got her on set and began the shoot. I kept it simple by photographing her face, hands, and the microphone. She had beautiful hands and even more beautiful skin. She fell right back into the days of being on stage. I hardly had to guide her with where to look and how to smile. She was spot on and knew exactly what she was doing. She is such a beautiful woman. She made it easy to photograph, and it was a short time until I felt comfortable with the number of images I had taken with the microphone.
I had to photograph her in a couple different scenarios, so we stepped out after that to her porch and did some simple shots of her with her little dog. I asked her and her home help aid if she still had any photographs, clothing, or such from that time that was special to her because I wanted to photograph her with it. Her home health aid stepped away to search her closet for a minute and came back with a seemingly 10lb beaded, white dress. I am sure the dress looked very intimidating to Kay, considering she is such a tiny lady already. Her home health aid talked her into putting on the dress one more time for a photo. We went back to the microphone and took some nostalgic images of her in her beautiful dress. When the shoot was over, we were joking with her about how heavy the dress must be on her. She said all her dresses in the 40's were beaded, and many of them she beaded herself while she was waiting backstage. A very sweet lady with an exciting past.