A few days ago I returned to Harlem to take new professional headshots of my friend Num Amun'Tehu.
Over the years, I've had several sessions with Num and the pictures we've taken have ended up in his promotional materials, album covers, postcards, business cards and other items.
I have written previously on this blog about how our working relationship has progressed. Num and I have found a comfort level that allows us to explore different looks and ideas.
I met Num years ago, when I first moved to New York City after college. Initially, I had spent a few years working at restaurants and bars while going to acting classes on my off days. Tired of the effects that the late bartending lifestyle was having on my career and goals, I switched to catering, eventually working for companies that specialized in small private parties, usually in people's homes. The pay was consistently better, the hours shorter, the teams better, and the nights earlier.
I quickly learned that the trick to finding more and consistent work to catering was to not only work hard, but to befriend waiters who were more established and knew several companies. Those waiters were able to string together enough work throughout the city each month to piece together steady work.
On my first night catering, I worked an extremely large job at Radio City Music Hall. We were working a VIP party in the lounge on the ground floor, the floor beneath the entry foyer. On that first job I met five waiters, who I still work with today and consider good friends. One of the waiters, David, had been established at a smaller company, Good Cateress for a few years, and had begun to bring me along to a few 'gigs.'
The owner and chef of Good Cateress, Jane McQueen-Mason originally hailed from the Isle of Wight in England. Jane was well traveled, erudite, urbane, and witty. She had developed a unique stable of friends and clients in the city and was by far one of the more interesting individuals I have met in New York.
Often, the jobs of Good Cateress were small enough that only the three of us, Jane, David, and I were necessary. While working in close proximity in small and large kitchens, through extremely busy parties and quiet ones, the three of us of shared and talked about just about everything we could, relationships, careers, families. Gigs have slowly felt less like work and more of a chance to catch up with friends, no matter the event. Over the years Jane and I have formed a friendship that I consider one of the more enduring and special in my life.
Since I've known Jane, her partner has been Num. Through the connection of a love for music, Num and I quickly became friends. On Wednesday, after finishing the sitting with Num, I was in the kitchen packing my bag and getting ready to leave. We were in the middle of a conversation and I looked up and saw them smiling at each other. I told them to get closer, "Act like you know each other" and snapped off a few quick shots.
A few of the pictures are crisper than the others, but I liked the series as a whole. Looking at all the pictures at once conveyed a moment of laughs and a sweetness of a deep and long standing relationship.