October 24, 2016 – New York, NY
Ah…New York, New York…so nice they named it twice, right? Well, actually, yea! The funny thing is, especially to people who don’t live here or aren’t from here (or even are), it is sometimes hard to imagine that the city can be a very friendly place. But I am here to tell you, it is and I have experienced it first hand, over and over again (granted I do make a point to say hello to people, I just can’t help it!).
One of the things that strikes even my dyed-in-the-wool NYC friends as slightly unbelievable is the close relationship that my neighbors and I share. And no, we are not emulating an older version of FRIENDS and we are certainly not an Upper East Side version of Seinfeld. What we are is a very lucky group of people who all have, just simply by geographic happenstance, formed a great little community and a strong bond of friendship.
Ok, ok…what does this have to do with what promises to be a captivating story? Well, just about everything!
One of these very cool neighbors of mine is Gail Hadani. She is a brilliant artist and fashion photographer who I have known her for years, stretching into decades really. And over these years we have developed a wonderful friendship and have great admiration for each other’s work. I feel so fortunate that I have gotten to see and sometimes even witness, her and Paul (her uber-talented partner in crime and creativity, aka make-up artist) in action.
Every so often, it happens…I get invited to pop downtown and watch them work. From the moment I step into the studio, I’m instantly swept away into a Gail Hadani and Paul Innis “production”…a world of music, lights, sparkly gems, fantastic fashion and big swirling fans. I am typically greeted by a “Hi Hil!”, shouted by Gail from behind the lens followed by the easy, booming laughter of Paul (whom I guess just finds me …funny!) as is his fussing with something on or around a gorgeous fashion model.
Oh! It’s pure bliss! It’s really every little girl’s dream… (I know it was mine, as I have been perusing the pages of VOGUE since age 4, fact.)
So, without further ado…may I present a fabulous conversation with the brilliant team of photographer Gail Hadani and make-up artist Paul Innis….
Hilarie: It’s so nice to be here and talk with you as I have seen the two of you work together so many times, but have never seen the process from beginning to end. How does the whole process work? Does it start with getting a call from a model or agency? Do you solicit business? Get referrals?
Gail: We have a terrific agent, Maxine Tall, who oversees everything for us. She gets contacted by all the clients and does all the negotiations. She does special promotions for us to advertising agencies, magazines and retailers. Also, we frequently get referrals since there is often a special connection after a shoot resulting in very good “word of mouth” recommendations.
Paul: We are always networking with prospects, as that is how the business stays vital. Once we decide to do a shoot, we organize with Maxine how we will do it including budget, hiring a stylist and crew. We often speak with the client to discuss the creative and collaborate with them.
HV: Now, I know that you work as a team and a well-oiled machine at that, and that Gail is the photographer and Paul is the beauty/make-up artist. What does each of you do?
Paul: Makeup/ Beauty Artist. I also work closely with Gail on the creative direction in every aspect of what we shoot together.
Gail: Photographer, but as Paul is saying, we collaborate every step of the way. We could not create the “magic” of what we do without each other (Paul widely smiles and nods in agreement, he has beautiful teeth by the way . . . I mean so does Gail, but just saying).
HV: It’s no secret that you are in a tough and competitive business, how has it changed over the years?
Gail: Clients still want and love beautiful images so that has not changed and continues to inspire me. However, across all segments of the industry whether retail, beauty or fashion, the business has changed in the way people are doing business. Therefore, their needs have changed. This has resulted in a much more involved process for them. They are “hands-on” in making decisions about what images they want and who their audience is and what to show in print ads, both in magazines and online. So the challenge is that approvals to confirm cosmetic and fashion campaigns take more time and involve greater considerations. However, I love the challenge and working closely with clients to create their vision.
Paul: I agree with Gail (honestly, these two seem to just exist in perfect harmony). Often I am involved in creating the beauty look for the client so it resonates in all mediums and for all audiences. Another aspect that is different is that the internet has become a further means to promote one’s work and professional background. With years of experience including previous contracts as a celebrity makeup artist for Clinique and Avon Cosmetics, the internet creates a new opportunity for my unique approach to beauty to reach out to more clients.
HV: How long does it take to do a photo shoot? What’s involved?
Gail: Well, there really are several elements that must come together: great lighting and set design, makeup and hair, and wardrobe styling. It is definitely teamwork but if the lighting is not right, not even photoshop can fix it! (She’s SO right, it’s everything in a photo!) They say that the photographer is the “captain of the ship” which is that they run a tight set and have a great crew and make sure that all the elements are perfect. Each shoot is a great responsibility and, as the photographer I have to ensure a wonderful result. Each shoot is different and the time varies depending on what is being shot.
Paul: Makeup and hair takes about an hour or two, depending on how much is involved in creating a look. So as soon as a model arrives, the music starts and it is important for the model to be relaxed during the process of transformation. As makeup and hair begins, there is conversation about what we are shooting and the wardrobe stylist begins reviewing the clothes and steaming them. Then the model starts trying on the clothes. Once on set, there are touch-ups to makeup, hair, clothes and then the “magic” begins with the photographer capturing the special moments.
HV: Wait . . . So, where do the clothes come from?
Gail: The clothes are pulled from designer showrooms before the shoot.
HV: So, do you have a pre-production meeting before the shoot?
Gail: Yes, it is necessary for everyone to be on the same page and know what the concept is. There is a lot of conversation and preparation before a shoot.
HV: When does that happen?
Paul: Depending on what is being shot and how much preparation needs to be done, it can be one or two weeks before the shoot.
Gail: It provides enough time for the wardrobe stylist to pull not only clothing but accessories, the makeup artist and hairstylist to get special items, and the set designer to build the set. I may need to order special equipment, etc.
HV: I have seen many of the models you work with, pre “done up”, what makes a good model?
Gail: Good bone structure.
Paul: The spacing of the eyes and the right proportion of the nose to the rest of the face.
Gail: For great beauty models, the key is finding the right angle so that she looks the most beautiful. It is very exciting to capture her at her best!
HV: If you had a dream model to work with – who? Why?
Paul: There are so many beautiful models and it is hard to choose. However, I have been sketching Iman for years because I love the proportions of her face. You can do an amazing range of makeup with her. (Iman, if you are reading this….please get in touch with Maxine….:) )
Gail: I feel the same way. There are many incredible models that I love because they know how to move beautifully and have such a great energy in front of the camera. I do love Tilda Swinton (she says with dreamy conviction) because she is such an exquisite, unique beauty.
HV: What is it like to work with models?
Gail + Paul: We never have problems (they say in unison, which is so amazing to watch . . . they are so symbiotic)
Gail: Our job is to make sure the model finds her own power . . . Once a model is confident and secure, she is saying something with her mind and body. That is what makes a strong image.
Paul: We make them SO comfortable. When we shot with Rosario Dawson, she was so comfy and we so bonded that we were like BFF’s and eating off each other plates!
Gail: Ooooh that was a good one, she is so smart! (said with a mix of excitement and exuberant hand gestures)
HV: So, let’s say you have a shoot tomorrow, when does the model/client get the finished product “goods” from you?
Gail: It depends on the post-production involved – how many final images needed. This is discussed prior to the shoot so that enough time is allocated from the shoot to deliver the final product. Print is also completely different than video which has much more post-production. We always make sure that we deliver on time to our clients.
HV: Where do you get your inspiration?
Paul: It comes from my experience and my environment . . . I spent 11 years working as a visual display artist at Bergdorf Goodman (mouth dropped and needed a minute to compose myself), Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s . . . so I can
be inspired by anything as I am keenly aware of what is around me visually
Gail: I was a painter before I pursued photography and I was always inspired by the greats . . . John Singer Sargent . . . he most especially inspired me to start photography. When I first met Paul, I was more of a fine artist . . . he came to me with this phenomenal commercial edge . . . I could see how to translate my fine art work to a brand, a product, a company. It was very powerful.
HV: You are based in NYC, is bring in the city part of your artistry?
Paul: Absolutely! As a visual person, there is so much to stimulate the senses in the city.
Gail: NYC has so many unique aspects . . . As an artist I frequent museums regularly as well as attending the performing arts. I am a huge fan of the city and all the culture surrounding me. It constantly feeds my creativity.
HV: Speaking of this “Super” team, how do the two of you know each other?
Gail: I was living in London, I previously had a career in Opera. At that time, I decided to stop performing and start to paint again. I decided to paint a friend who was a prima ballerina with the ABT ( American Ballet Theatre). I went to the Tate gallery and saw John Singer Sargent (again one of her all- time favorites). I was about to move back to NYC and I decided to take photos of the ballerina friend so I could paint her when I got back. When the photos were developed, I looked at them and realized that I loved what I saw and it did not require 60 hours of painting (Wow! So simple and brilliant)
I took an ad in Le Book with a few photos that had quite a Renaissance feel to them.
Upon moving back to NYC, I received a call from Paul. He mentioned he saw the ad and asked if we could meet. I said, sure!
He walked in, fabulous looking guy, he told me he was also an artist and illustrator. He showed me his work and I was blown away. He asked me “Do you want to be a fashion and beauty photographer or a fine art photographer?” I said “ I don’t know” ( again with the hand gesture, nod and shoulder shrug) He said, “Ok, then I’ll get the model!” And we started. (This is a great story, but what’s even more entertaining is to have watched Paul watch her tell it . . . You could see the look of happy nostalgia on his face . . . And of course the visceral restraint at wanting to jump in and add to it . . . But he’ll get his turn!)
Paul: For me, like I said, I worked for 11 years doing visual merchandising. I started at Macy’s, working on mannequins, painting makeup on the faces and dressing them, in the high designer area called Little Shops at the time. Then I went to Bloomingdale’s (ahhh….love that store…always and forever…) and did mannequins there for a few years. Then, I arrived at Bergdord Goodman to do the Christmas windows
HV: Wait … wait…wait… just have to know, what was working at Bergdorf Goodman (BG) like?
Paul: Working at BG was fantastic! I worked with Linda Fargo (OMG!) at Macy’s and then at BG. It was an absolute dream. There were no “no’s”, I could pull whatever I wanted (I am DYING here!!! – I used to dream of getting “accidentally” locked in after closing….). (Aside, Gail went to go get the book Dreams Through The Glass about the Bergdorf Goodman windows – it’s simply stunning and a treasured part of NY history).
I thought, so from here, where do you go? It was then I decided to do real models ( versus mannequins). While I was at BG, I had a friend who was a stylist. On the weekends, we would do shoots so I could get pictures for my portfolio.
When I decided I was ready to leave, I went around to agencies to try to get representation. As I was very new, one of the agencies, Art + Commerce, suggested that I first assist one of their artists. I got great experience and even assisted the renowned hairdresser, Guido ( Italian Vogue). I decided that I preferred makeup and realized that I did not want to remain an assistant. I looked in Le Book to find photographers to work with and Gail’s work spoke to me and she was the first one I called!
HV: How long have you been working together?
Gail + Paul: 18 years . . .(they say quickly and in unison).
HV: Who do you follow, professionally? Who are some of your favorite photographers or artists?
Gail: I feel that I have developed my own style, especially with my background in music and art. Coming from the world of Opera, I am always attracted to a more dramatic look which I feel translates in my work. Although there are many photographers that I admire, I don’t follow one exclusively.
Paul: I have always admired Pat McGrath’s makeup. Her range is wonderful.
HV: What I find so interesting, is that you have come together and developed this business, but you both had extraordinary careers prior to working together.
Gail, I call you the Renaissance woman, give me an overview of your background . . .
Gail: My family is very artistic and as I mentioned above, I had always been involved in the arts. I was a fine art painter and began exhibiting from the ages of 10 to 13 in galleries in NY and NJ. . . Then I went into music and graduated college in the fine arts . . . Studied Opera . . . Had a 25 year career in Opera . . . Dramatic soprano (leading female roles). Tosca was my major world and I performed it all over the world with world renowned conductors. My major rep was Puccini . . . La Boheme (played Mimi) and Manonlescaut. Then I returned to my love of art and found my new voice through beauty and fashion photography which I love and is my passion and includes magazine editorial, cosmetic and retail advertising.
HV: Paul, do tell
Paul: As we discussed a bit earlier, after Bergdorf Goodman, I was represented by Maxine. I soon was signed as a contracted spokesperson for Clinique Cosmetics which included traveling around the world educating consultants on the makeup and makeup application. After a few years, I was signed as a contracted celebrity makeup artist for Avon. My responsibilities were broader and I developed with their lab and their Marketing/Creative teams a line of foundations that sold over 100% of what they expected (Ideal Flawless) as well as doing a series of “how-to” videos and special events for their consultants. Throughout, I have done many print and television ads for prestigious cosmetic and hair companies as well as celebrity shoots. I love it all.
HV: And now that you have been working together for so many years, what does the future look like? Are there other things you two want to try?
Gail: We enjoy working together so much . . . That we love creating our own artistic projects, trying new concepts.
Paul: We love what we do.
Gail: His eyes are my eyes . . . My eyes are his eyes
Paul: We think exactly the same way, it’s true. (This is a really touching moment, wish you could have been there)
Gail: We don’t have egos with each other and that allows for a great flow of creativity.
HV: What is your advice for aspiring photographers?
Gail: Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more . . . there is always another angle (Paul thinks this is a brilliant line, tells her that should be her book title!)
HV: And Paul . . . for you
Paul: It’s essential to know the basics – a perfect, clean makeup takes great technical skill. Once you have mastered that, it is key to develop a signature style so that you can distinguish yourself. It is so important to keep experimenting and to make color your friend! You have to constantly shoot and gain experience so that you know that your makeup looks perfect under the lights and in front of the camera whether dramatic or simple.
HV: If you were to start over now, what would you do differently, if anything?
Gail: Nothing . . . I already had the basic eye . . . I am always learning . . . This all seems just like what was meant to be.
Paul: I agree that each area gave me a background that I could reference and build on as I went on to the next area. I am grateful for the depth of knowledge. I can say that since it takes years to build a career, start as early as possible.
Thank you, my oh so talented friends – keep making magic!
About the Author
Ms.Viener is the founder of Viener&Partners, a brand and marketing consultancy based in Manhattan. She and her Partners have been fortunate enough to have worked with over 100 brands (and counting) from start-ups to Fortune 100’s, all over the globe. Prior to launching V&P, Hilarie was Executive Vice President, North America of The Value Engineers, global brand consultancy and President of branding and digital agency, WONDER. Ms. Viener is a graduate of American University’s School of Communication in Washington, DC. She began her career at Wells Rich Greene Advertising, then moved on to roles at Griffin Bacal, Lowe & Partners and BBDO.