I first saw Alison while watching a rehearsal of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Alison was in Taylor 2 and she had also come in to watch this rehearsal. The second she walked into the studio I was in love. There right in front of me was the face I had been searching for for so long. I had been shooting mostly dance for years but wanted to get back into taking portraits. I’m always happiest when working closeup with a model, one on one. Alison had the face to inspire my new work.
Portraiture has always been my favorite type of photography and influenced all my pictures. Even when shooting dance I care more about the face than the body. Now I wanted it to be the main focus of my work. I knew immediately Alison would be just the type of person I needed for motivation. I got my chance to see if I was right when doing a group portrait of the Taylor 2 dancers. I made up some excuse to have Alison’s makeup done first so I could use her to test my lighting. We didn’t have much time to work alone, but in the short time we had together I managed to get a nice portrait, despite the commercial lighting set up for the job. More important, I saw something emotionally much deeper in Alison than her naturally pretty always smiling face. That was the person I needed for my new work.
I had always wanted to shoot in Riverside Park but for some reason never took advantage of the location. Central Park is so beautiful it didn’t dawn on me to shoot somewhere else. It was only after the bike path was built through Riverside Park that I realized the park’s beauty. While taking my rides I would often stop and watch the sunset from under a willow tree along the river. Right after sunset the light was so beautiful there. I felt this would be a great place to photograph Alison.
We arrived under the willow tree half an hour before sunset. I needed to wait for the right light so Alison and I sat under the willow tree and talked. It was the first time we had a real conversation. Sitting there with the sun setting over the Hudson River, the pale light of the sky reflecting off the water; it seemed like a very special moment. We created a stronger bond that evening and it translated into a night of very special photographs.
Alison Cook Beatty in Riverside Park: 09/01/09