Some people are born with a great talent. Depending on the gods a person who arrives in the world with a natural talent may or may not discover their path and their passion. Some people spend their entire lives searching for their true identity and mission in life. Many never find it. Eric Von Lockhart is one of those people who did.
Born with a special gift, Eric knew from an early age that “some form of art was his destiny”. If you ask Eric how long he has been perfecting his craft he will tell you “all his life”. His photographic work commands a worldwide audience in the entertainment and hair industries.
When I meet brilliant artists I often wonder where the source of their inspiration comes from. Is it their heredity, environment or did they suffer some intense challenges in early life that shaped and molder their drive and passion for excellent?
Catching The Shutter Bug
Although Eric was born in New York City, he traveled the world from an early age with his military family. Living in such exotic spots as Japan and the Philippines, Eric developed a special appreciation for the constant change of scenery, courtesy the US Air Force. While many brats resent the gypsy life, Eric saw it as a positive force that helped him mature and learn about life from a new angle.
Temporarily waylaid from his ultimate destiny, Eric returned with his family to New York during his junior high years. After graduation he made his way in 1974 to Pennsylvania’s East Stroudsburg State where he was initially attracted to studying for a degree in physical education.
Once there, Eric rapidly lost interest in most of his traditional college classes, except for his first course in photography. His mom supplied his very first camera for the class which ultimately awakened his artistic passion. The “duh factor” set in and Eric was back on track to his photographic path and eager to evolve as quickly as possible. Haunting the library stacks, Eric built upon the basics from the class and taught himself everything he could learn from books.
While he dabbled with shutter speeds, composition, lighting and positioning, Eric also practiced, practiced and practiced some more. As his knowledge base grew so did his excitement and love of his photographic work.
Eric dream took shape and he knew that becoming a successful and respected photographer was his true destiny in life.
Following in his dad’s footsteps, Eric left East Stroudsburg State and joined the service. His love of “shooting” was encouraged and nurtured during his three years with the Army doing still photography. Although the majority of people think, as Eric explained, “that all photographers do all types of photography” this is not the case. Just like doctors “specialize” so do photographers. A great fashion photographer might not be good or even interested in doing other forms.
From Helicopters To Fine Art
Eric continued to bootstrap his foundation of knowledge while learning to shoot work related to Army R&D on helicopters that were painted with sophisticated camouflaged hues. The challenge of shooting a whole new medium drove him to excel. He also learned to “shoot photos of items that were in motion” and at different altitudes. Eric felt that because of the intense projects that he was given to photograph, that he gained invaluable experience in a short time. Although he left the Army in his early 20s, he felt he had gained the knowledge, in some areas, of a man twice that age.
As Eric left the service he was determined to accelerate his career to the next level. Returning home to New York, he landed a job as a fine art photographer with the Whitney Museum where lighting and attention to detail are of utmost importance. Never one to look an opportunity in the mouth, Eric devoted himself to perfecting his knowledge of shooting fine art. He also discovered the intense challenge of capturing the essence of art and bringing it to life in his work.
Destiny Of Hair World
Always a believer in destiny, Eric was “open to the new possibilities” when he was approached by “the owner of the hair salon next door to his photo lab” and asked to shoot some of the salon’s customers. Intrigued, Eric agreed to take some shoots that were slated to appear in Shop Talk, a popular hair magazine back in 1980.
One thing led to another and before he could stop and think about it, Eric was in hot demand by several other salons wanting to harness his talent for shooting hair. From those initial beginning in Shop Talk Eric was skyrocketed to full photo spreads for Hype Hair, Sophisticates and Blacktress. His progress up the ladder of success continued when he accepted a position as house photographer for Dudley Black Hair Company in Greensboro, North Carolina. Although he left the world of fine art photography in the rear view mirror, Eric’s print work for Dudley was soon appearing in all the major black publications.
Taking stock of his photographic path into the world of Dudley, Eric explained that “he had leapfrogged over all the “shoulds” of becoming a successful professional shooter.” Not only was Eric “never a photographer’s apprentice or assistant”, he didn’t follow a traditional path in any sense. What Eric did instead was “follow his passion for photography, listen to his heart and embrace the opportunities when they presented themselves”. Although “being at the right place at the right time” was part of the equation, Eric had the wisdom to “go with the flow” when it presented itself.
After his stint with Dudley ended, Eric made his way back to his beloved New York where his business mind pointed him towards capturing more work in the hair and beauty worlds. In short order Eric was the darling of the music world and found Vivica Fox, Anana Lewis, Mary J. Blige and Deborah Cox staring back at him through the lens of his cameras.
Meetings With Eric Von Lockhart
One thing I quickly learned in the early days with HairBoutique.com was the necessity of looking at every hair and beauty magazine I could buy, beg, borrow or steal. Every month I would make a pilgrimage to the local newsstand where the clerks all knew me as “that hair lady” and I would schlep a mound of hair and beauty magazines to the checkout counters. Armed with boxes of colored stickies and my stack of mags, I would study each and every hair photo for what seemed liked weeks.
I learned pretty quickly, without having to twist to check the photo credits, to pick out the Von Lockarts from the Tom Carsons and the Jack Cutlers. I also developed an amazing ability to know who shot what from a quick glance of a page.
As my addiction to hair magazines continued, my curiosity about Eric, Tom and Jack grew. I had the honor to talk with Tom Carson and I heard lots of great stories about Jack Cutler. Unfortunately, Eric Von Lockhart remained just a name under some incredible work splashed in just about every magazine that I studied.
All of that changed two years ago when I met Barbara Lhotan, author of the very popular 5 Minute Updo Book. Barbara graciously introduced me to Eric, who was the photographer for her book. She encouraged me to use Eric for the HairBoutique.com Spring 2001 photo shoot that Barbara was producing for HairBoutique.com. Not only did Barbara and Eric both live in New York, they had a great working relationship.
HairBoutique.com’s Spring Shoot
Although I was not able to attend the actual photo shoot, Eric and I talked at length by phone about the shoot, his philosophies about getting shooting great work and where he wants to be in the future.
One of the key points that Eric made was that “different textures of hair require different lighting”. Knowing how to adjust the lights is so important to capturing the best views. One of the first things that Eric learned when he shooting hair from the likes of American and Modern Salon was the way the different textures would turn out in the photos. Even after years of working with all sorts of hair colors and textures Eric continues to study the way that different lighting techniques will create different outcomes.
Blonde hair is light and delicate and the reflection is quite different than curly hair.
Eric believes that he has an advantage when it comes to shooting hair because of his early work with still photography. Shooting people is not nearly as complex as shooting a still object. He also believes that shooting for beauty and hair is much more artistic and less technical. Since he loves to “create art” with his lens, Eric loves what he is doing.
Eric pointed out that many of the great photographers like Michael Thompson who shoots for Allure, started life as a still photographer.
Besides understanding the lighting, shadows and color subtleties, still photography is not forgiving. Either you get it or you don’t.
With people photography is a lot more forgiving.
Eric likes to set the stage for the best possible shoot results. He plays progressive house music from the Chicago Warehouse period of the 80s. He also softens the harsh lights at his studio to make it more conducive for great results.
Models Are Key
No matter how talented the photographer is or how great the studio music, if the model doesn’t have “the look” then you will still not get the absolute best results you are looking for.
Eric believes that many hairstylists limit their ability to really be successful showing their work because they don’t pick the very best models. As he pointed out “it is not what you do with the hair or how pretty the hair looks, it is who you do the hair on”.
No matter how gorgeous a French Twist may look or how stunning the hair jewelry is, if the model wearing isn’t striking, something gets lost in the translation.
Eric pointed out that it is often difficult to explain the hard facts of life to stylists and models. Today’s society is much more accepting of flawed bodies, skin and faces, but not for selling fashion or hair. To really be successful and show your best work, you have to have the absolute best canvas, which means the best looking models.
Although he wants to be politically correct and sensitive to people’s feelings, it is a hard line to walk when he arrives at a shoot only to find models that won’t photograph well. As a professional it is his job to get the best he can do.
If you use a model who is “just okay” you will not achieve the most spectacular results.
Bottom line great hair photographs are pretty hairstyles on pretty people. Pretty hairstyles on unattractive people result in mediocre photos, no matter how talented the photographer.
Photographers Discover The Models
It really is true that the super models are discovered by photographers. If a model has “the look” the photographer will instantly spot how it can be captured and exploited. In the United States models that have the right appearance become a commercial commodity like Cindy Crawford did. Cosmetic manufacturers have learned that it is worth the investment to develop a model with the “right look and face” into a major brand spokesperson.
How does a great model get discovered? Although it can be through a complex series of actions, often it is the result of a modeling agency sending an unknown to a photographer who “discovers” that she is a great photographic subject and has a certain special look that can be exploited.
There really is no such thing as a “hair model”. This is a misconception held by many people. “Hair models are actually beautiful models how also happen to have good hair”. Giselle is a great example of this concept.
A person with beautiful hair and the wrong look or face and body will never make it just on the merits of their hair. A beautiful girl with a great face and body and pretty hair can become known for her hair.
Next For Eric
Eric is eternally busy. Earlier in the year he flew to Naples, Florida to do a special shoot for Inspire magazine. He also works on many fashion and hair publications like 101 Celebrity Hairstyles and 101 Black Celebrity Hairstyles.
Eric is not one to listen to naysayers about anything. He puts one foot ahead of the other as he moves forward in his making all of his dreams a reality. I have not doubt that Eric Von Lockhart is well on his way to becoming the Number One Fashion, Beauty and Music photographer in the world where getting on his waiting list will be like trying to get tickets to a sold out show.
Eric Von Lockhart at (212)463-0450 [email protected]
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