One look at Tira Howard’s website and I was hooked. Urged by my publicist Mari to “refresh” my seven-year-old website with new photos by Tira, I shot off an email requesting a photo op in September and asked how long it might take.
“September 20th would be great! For authors in the past we would shoot for around 2 hours,” Tira responded.
“What time?” I asked.
“I’ll arrive close to sunset. That’s the best time to shoot, when we have Santa Fe’s dreamy afternoon light.”
I liked the idea of being photographed at home rather than in a studio. At home is where I feel most comfortable and relaxed. I jotted the appointment in my calendar and forgot about it – it was more than a month out.
Two days before my date with Tira, I was on Zoom with Mari, who lives in Spain.
“Are you ready for your photo op?” she asked before our meeting ended.
“Yes, but I have one burning question.”
“What about makeup?”
“Have you discussed makeup with Tira?”
“No, I thought she might bring someone to do makeup.”
“No, it’s separate, Shirley. I have three names I’ll try to contact but I’m afraid you won’t be able to get anyone at the last minute.”
“Yikes! If I have to do my own, do you have any advice for me?”
“Yes, put on your usual makeup but add more on your cheeks and eyes. I think you’ll be just fine.”
The afternoon of the scheduled shoot, the weather turned cloudy. In an email, Tira offered to re-schedule. I didn’t mind. I told her I was still trying to figure out what to wear! We settled on a date three days later when sun was forecast for the entire day. In response to my clothing quandary, Tira offered this advice: “Solid and neutral (black, white, khaki, olive, navy, cream, gray) colors are the easiest for graphic designers to work with unless you have already figured out design colors and would like to coordinate.”
It was nearly 5 p.m. when, after brushing extra color onto my cheeks, I opened the front door to greet Tira. Taller than I’d expected, with dark hair to her shoulders, she wore a dark blue, shirred waist dress and black flats. No camera in hand. She flashed a smile that made me feel she was a friend or at the very least, someone I would like to get to know.
Minutes before Tira arrived, I’d covered the back of our cream-colored sofa with a variety of neutral tops and a few scarves to go with black pants. On the nearby bar I’d stacked a small pile of necklaces and earrings. “What do you think?” I asked Tira, pointing toward the sofa.
“I think you might wear all of them.” She looked at me and smiled. “We’ll have plenty of time for you to change.”
I gave Tira a quick tour of the house, pointing out my office with my favorite red leather chair where I often write and the library. But it was outside where she wanted to start shooting. “There are so many possibilities!” Tira said, standing on the flagstone patio and taking in the view. “In front of the maple tree, out beyond your patio wall, on your portal with that fabulous sculpture on the wall, and in front of your house against the russet stucco. The natural light is perfect! Let me grab my camera and I’ll be right back.”
Little more than an hour and several changes of tops and jewelry later, I took a seat in the library for the only indoor shot Tira took.
A couple of weeks later, I received a link to Tira’s favorite photos taken during our photo op. Here are a few of them. Which ones do you like?
I'm Shirley Melis. You may know me as Shirley M. Nagelschmidt, Shirley M. Bessey and now, Shirley M. Hirsch. Each reflects a particular phase of my life. Banged-Up Heart is a slice of my life's journey and in telling my story, I'm giving voice to my long silent "M" by reclaiming my maiden name, Shirley Melis.