In Flagstaff, Arizona, you can get a haircut by an experienced hand in this old-school barber shop. Viewing the scene firsthand, I felt like I had stepped through a portal and gone back several decades in time.
Story Behind the Scene:
Towards the end of our whirlwind tour of Arizona locations with teammate Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, fellow Albertan Peter Carroll and I were guided through several hours around the old Route 66 city of Flagstaff. In an experience full of high points, this was a particular highlight for me. We were exhausted and it was — as usual — a blazing hot day, but Flagstaff was a great part of the itinerary. At the time, I was pretty sure I got several strong candidates for the project exhibit, and I wasn’t disappointed in that.
One fun thing we did was an interpretive tour around the old part of town. Our guide Johnny, from the Flagstaff Historical Society, was getting a bit up in years. But he had a quick step, just as quick a wit armed with stories and humor, and he packed a 6-gun on his hip. He was a genuine Arizona character in his own right! Even better, he seemed to know everything and everyone in town. One piece of his treasure trove of knowledge resulted in a quick visit to Ulibarri’s Barber Shop.
Ulibarri’s is owned and run by Hermanis Ulibarri, seen at work here. When we showed up with Johnny, a small family was in the shop. We talked a bit, explained our project, and everyone agreed to let our small group make a few quick photos. I was struck by the old school look of the place, including the chairs, equipment-laden shelves, and photos & memorabilia on the walls. There was something a little “Norman Rockwell” about the situation… something nostalgic. I’m old enough to remember barber shops like this from when I was a young kid, but I have to say I haven’t set foot in such a place for several decades.
While everyone was looking at something going on with another member of our project group, I framed a composition showing a tableau around the young boy with his new, clean haircut. Everyone’s gaze going in a direction away from where I was, plus my position behind one of the empty chairs, gave this perspective a more candid and less posed feeling. It also adds a question mark into the scene — what’s going on, what are they looking at? We can’t tell, and I think that adds some interest; engaging curiosity is a good way to help bring more story-telling into a photograph.
I knew this scene would work well with the monochrome treatment I had decided on for the project. When I reviewed the shortlist for my exhibit set, this photo stuck with me and I knew it had to be one of my final selections. I’d love to go back to Flagstaff and experience more… the town, and the people there.