Andy Warhol promised everyone 15 minutes of fame, and now John Segall offers every woman (and man, too) a bit of glamour -- at least in a photo.
"The motto of our store is we capture the beauty in every woman who exists," says Mr. Segall, president of Elegant Images, a growing chain of glamour photography salons, with the nearest outlet at White Marsh Mall. "It's absolutely there. It's just a question of developing it."
To develop "it," customers go through a two-hour beauty makeover and hairstyling before sitting under carefully arranged lights for a Vogue-like portrait. But glamour doesn't come cheap. The price starts at $59.95, dropping to $29.95 during specials.
"Sure, we're selling glamour as much as the photo," says Mr. Segall, who runs the family enterprise with his brother, Jeff, the firm's vice president. "But there's also the experience customers undergo, the pampering and the consultation with our makeup artists. They like how they look afterward and how it makes them feel. I've seen the full range of emotions, from crying to laughing to screaming, when people see their finished portraits."
Deborah Dziwulski of Baltimore has modeled large-woman fashions and was tempted to have a picture taken after her 6-year-old daughter, Brittaney, was photographed by Elegant Images with striking results.
"It was so much fun," recalls the 33-year-old mother. "I went in there with no makeup, my hair flat, looking totally ugly and I came out looking absolutely gorgeous. I was thrilled. It was even more exciting when I went back to look at the proofs. In one of the pictures, I looked like Liz Taylor!"
Mrs. Dziwulski was so pleased, she returned for another sitting, this time for a sexy photo, showing her with glaring red lipstick and gold-colored eyelids against a fiery background of yellow and red lights. Her 70-year-old mother went along for her own picture, though in a more subdued pose.
After admiring her older sister's photograph, 11-year-old Cheryl Kupnicki couldn't wait to sit for a glamour photo herself. The sixth grade student at St. Joseph Fullerton School got her chance last February and was delighted with the sophisticated, mature look.
Gina Dietz, a claims examiner for Blue Cross-Blue Shield, was intrigued when fellow workers passed around their glamour photos at the office, and arranged for her own.
"I wanted the look of not looking like me, but mine turned out to look just like me," she says, with a hint of disappointment.
Thanks to Elegant Images, Dr. Barry Buchman's dental office at the Perry Shopping Center boasts a "fantasy wall." On display are glamour portraits of the five female assistants and hygienists on staff, including Betty Buchman, the dentist's wife. "Patients get a real kick out of it," says Mrs. Buchman. "We get a lot of comment."
Like women, men also want to look better, to appear different than they do in ordinary life. While some aspire to look like models, others strive for the macho image of rock stars and bikers, posing in leather and chains, with a few days' stubble on their chin. The makeup for men is not nearly as dramatic as it is for women, and is most effective in covering up lines and imperfections.
Acknowledging some customers are not always happy with the new look, Mr. Segall says, "It happens [that] people say, 'This is not me,' but not often. Our success rate is well over 90 percent."
One indicator of customer satisfaction, he says, is that most people select a package well above the basic $59.95 minimum. The most popular goes for $189.95 and includes a 16-by-20-inch wall-sized portrait. Five-foot-tall blowups are also available at $525 apiece, and have had a few takers.
Customers arrive at the salon with freshly-washed hair and no makeup, and are seated in one of the six chairs in back. While a hTC sound system plays soothing music, a makeup artist and a hair stylist explain step by step what they are doing and why. Staff cosmetologists are licensed and additionally trained in Elegant Images techniques. The process relies heavily on Elegant Images' own line of cosmetics, along with accessories and draping, to create a Hollywood image. Being relaxed and pampered and having the ego stroked also play a part.
"Our staff is schooled in making people feel good about themselves," says Mr. Segall. "That's what the two-hour process is all about. If a woman is willing to risk working with us, we can take someone who feels inhibited or uptight because she's overweight and bring her to the point of accepting herself. It's as much an emotional development as it is a physical transformation. Looking good comes after feeling good."
Initially, the Segalls expected their prime market to be women between the ages of 18 and 35. To their surprise they found the upper range of their target audience closer to 49, with a sprinkling of customers from 6 to 85. Men make up about 10 percent of the total.