Bet you didn’t think your first shoot for the New York Times would be about….

New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson’s email to me opened with “Bet you didn’t think you’d be shooting a story about teeth whitening”. And No Campbell, I didn’t think my first shoot for the NY Times would be about Teeth Whitening. I signed a contract as a freelancer for the NY Times in March. They called me on a Wednesday and asked if I was available for Thursday. I was. Late Wednesday the story came together and I managed to make the calls needed to set up the shoots.

The story is really about how regulations change from state to state, sometimes without rhyme or reason. In this case it’s the teeth whitening business. In Alabama the dentist lobby has managed to legislatively restrict it to dentists. In other states like Tennessee, it can be done by cosmetologists in salons and spas. My shoots were in Guntersville Alabama of Joyce Osborn, who is suing the state of Alabama to change the restrictions, and then on to Hixson Tennessee to show it being done in a salon.

I drove up and met Joyce at her home. She is a warm and friendly powerhouse. Her lovely home sits on a ridge overlooking Lake Guntersville. I photographed her inside with a teeth whitening device she invented for home use that emits blue LED light. Kinda cool but hard to show. The shots of her on the terrace outside with the view worked better but don’t express the story focus as well. What they do though is capture a bit of Joyce’s strength and determination.

After that it was on to Hixson just north of Chattanooga. CJ’s Hair and Nails is pretty much small-town-America. It’s not the sleek modern day-spa look expected in most cities but much more down-home and relaxed. The process with the machine used, also made by Joyce and her company, is not exactly flattering. It requires a mouthpiece held in the mouth for 20 minutes. One shouldn’t ¬†swallow the gel used on the teeth so a lap full of paper towels comes in handy. Like I said, not flattering but my ‘model’ was a good sport about it and Juanita the business owner was gracious throughout. And the model’s teeth were indeed 4 shades whiter.

I just hope what i submitted is what they were looking for. I ended up liking a couple of them.