"Why are there no photos of your work online or on social media?! How do I know if you're any good?" I love this particular question. Many likely think the lack of photos online solely relates to a position of being squarely anti social media - something which I've been vocal about in several interviews. While that position is not at all incorrect, it contributes to only a very small, insignificant part of the overall decision. This topic resonates to the very core of my professional philosophy and consequently is a large reason for my reputation and continued success here in Australia. In fact, many of the posts on this blog if not the entire point of it existing is a demonstrative response to this.
Let's get into this. First off, my client list is incredibly diverse. Literally early 20's to late 70's and a mix of African, Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander - literally every race and (almost) every possible hair type. Attempting to visually capture what I do and for whom would be an unrealistic, arduous task which I do not have the time for during or after anyone's session. To that point, any attempt to post photos online only serves to alienate those who feel they are not equally or at all represented. Photos are riddled with bias, something which is necessary to avoid as much as possible.
Most importantly though, I work with a number of women who have a variety of personal and private situations - from public personalities to camera shy and Transgender through anxiety, high functioning ASD, pre and post chemotherapy, various forms of Alopecia and Trichotillomania. For these individuals, they desperately search online for someone who might be different from the rest and who also just might have a private space which wouldn't cause them the sensory or otherwise emotional distress a typical salon would. An Instagram feed full of perfectly styled images is exactly the sort of thing which would likely make them quickly gloss over what I am offering here. Above all I respect my clients privacy, confidentiality and anonymity regarding the posting of photos. Quite appropriately, their written testimonials have been tremendously helpful in attracting others.
Let's get into the photos themselves though shall we? Instagram hairdresser photos are either product heavy, over-styled or both. An image has to be in order to have any emotional resonance (and value) for the viewer they are targeting. The hairdressers (curl focused or otherwise) who put these images online are largely operating from a place of 'in that moment' creativity - not client satisfaction the next morning, week or months forward. Consequently these women will likely go home and find their haircuts to be less than ideal and certainly nothing like the photo captured. This is the very essence of bad hairdressing and again, the focus of so many posts to this blog.
It's worth noting here that countless new clients have informed me that it was actually the redundant, one-dimensional, product styled images of a certain very popular local hairdressers Instagram feed which directly led them to book in with me. Perhaps non-coincidentally, these women are typically the ones who then voice their frustration at the high-fuss, time intensive and unrealistic approach that conventional salons offer. Even if I was to join in the Instagram obsession, many of my clients would simply refuse to have their photo taken. Those who would oblige, the photos themselves wouldn't garner any sort of positive reaction online (or in bookings) as they wouldn't look styled in that expected social media sense. Any attempt to photograph my clients would be an invasion of their privacy and categorically under-represent what I am about as a professional and thus serves no purpose what so ever.
That's a wrap.
The type of clients I do attract are looking on Google, not Instagram or Facebook. It's why I spend countless hours each week on SEO so that a precise type of individual can find me. Once they make their way to this website, there is a plethora of pedantically written copy, this obsessively edited blog and hundreds of wonderfully written testimonials which I am ever grateful for. Fittingly, the women who do come in and regularly go on to become happy long term clients are often the sort of thorough, well read, research based individuals who can articulately engage in spirited consultation and conversation. This is an elemental requirement for reliable, consistent, quality hairdressing - people who can communicate effectively. [Women who feel they lack the skills to effectively communicate what they like or dislike without photos would be best served by the following posts here and here.]
There is no way any one professional is going to be a perfect fit for everyone. As such, it is a foolish endeavour to try and attract every type of person - regardless of hair type. My practice and how it presents online is designed to align and resonate with a certain type of individual. When I learn of the frustrations from some who wish there were Instagram feeds and photo galleries, I know what I'm doing is correctly calibrated to attract the exact type of success I have achieved. This is all done because I wish to make a particular type of individual happy - those who have had the most difficult and challenging time being happy.
While online comments are always closed, I encourage any readers to email me their thoughts directly. I will always respond in kind.
One final fun fact. I studied photography at University and worked with a fashion photographer on dozens of shoots for close to a decade. About 23 years ago I actually had a fully kitted out photo studio in my work space and would photograph clients on a vintage, medium format Yashika Mat. I processed the film by hand in a lab and placed the printed images in an actual photo album for clients to peruse. When I think of those years now, it is very clear that the entire effort was based in creative ego and not at all about making my clients happy.
© Tom Zappala. All rights reserved.