“Follow the leader” is a phrase that’s been in our lexicon for generations. It’s the title of movies, songs, and games alike and has become a ubiquitous saying in the process. For the purposes of one of Patrick Heagney’s recent projects for The Atlantan magazine, “follow the leader” has to do with emulating prominent Atlantans focused on living well-rounded lives.
The idea was to capture images of the subjects that evoke health, wholesomeness, and well-being while still reading as upscale. Like all assignments, there were certain specs I was shooting to, but overall I had a lot of freedom in terms of choosing the backgrounds and posing the subjects.
Patrick is a frequent contributor to Modern Luxury’s publications (The Atlantan is just one of them) and, for this assignment, helped profile five very successful community leaders from a wide assortment of professions.
All of them take health and wellness very seriously, and it’s always nice to talk with people who are passionate about what they do. Each of the subjects do very different things, but they all have a commitment to taking care of not just the body, but also the mind. I think because of this they are very relaxed, chilled out people, very easy-going, and very easy to talk to. I can’t think of another story I’ve shot where all the subjects seemed so at home in their own skin, which in turn made them easier to photograph.
The beauty of this story is that the subjects’ wellness methods are as diverse as the subjects themselves, a characteristic inherent to Atlanta’s demographics. Take Dr. Arlene Dijamco, who works in integrative medicine and carries a go-with-the-flow attitude that became a necessity for her shoot.
The idea was to shoot her on a covered bridge with some greenery in the background, but when we arrived the bridge was closed and the trees hadn’t gotten green yet, so we had to think on our feet. I dragged her all over, made her climb down some nearly-vertical hills to get to a waterfall, lay on her back in some grass, and balance on a large tree root that was poking out over a drop-off (this is the setup that ended up getting used), all in a nice dress and heels! She was so game for every suggestion and never complained once!
Fellow doctor Chelsea Jackson, Ph.D. uses yoga for self-care. The Spelman, Columbia, and Emory alum was supposed to do a standing pose in a fountain but, like with Arlene, had to work with Patrick to improvise an alternative while at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead.
On the day of the shoot, the weather decided to drop about 20 degrees below normal. It was freezing. I think the look she gave me when I suggested she get in the water [anyway] was my favorite part of the shoot. I couldn’t blame her! The pose we went with was one we never would have gotten if she’d been in the fountain as originally planned.
Patrick must’ve felt sheepish asking Chelsea to stand in freezing water. Perhaps he felt the same around Steve Nygren, a businessman who founded the idyllic community Serenbe on the outskirts of Atlanta for people who want a holistic, enriching lifestyle. Steve spends much of his time walking in the woods and caring for the animals on his property, like actual sheep.
I’m trying (and failing) to coax sheep over and all the sudden this respectable pillar of the community was just belting out his best sheep impression at the top of his lungs. He says he has calls for all of the animals. I can’t say the sheep thought very much of his impression, but it really made my day.
The other two business owners Patrick worked with were Carrie Wright and Jamie Weeks. Carrie owns Intown Salt Room and is working to dispel the notion that salt is bad for the body. Her rooms are replete with Pink Himalayan Salt, which can improve respiratory health and soothe sore muscles through dry salt therapy.
Like all of these subjects, Carrie was such a lovely, chill person to work with. My favorite part was learning all about her business, [as] I had no idea what a salt room was.
I’ve definitely never had the opportunity to stand barefoot in a giant sandbox of pink Himalayan salt while shooting before.
Jamie is Orangetheory Fitness’ largest franchisee and a co-founder of MOTION Stretch Studio. The latter business aims to help people correct physical issues and retain their muscles through tailored stretching regimens. As with Chelsea’s shoot, Patrick photographed Jamie at the Grand Hyatt.
We did several different setups, including one where I had him walk through all these windy paths in the garden while I shot him while walking backwards in front of him. The paths had a lot of curves and turns and was difficult to navigate backwards while looking through a camera, so after I stepped off the path and onto a bush a couple of times, Jamie started verbally guiding me. It was a huge help and allowed us to get through that portion of the shoot much quicker (and with less collateral damage)!
Patrick collaborated with some impressive people for this shoot, but he certainly wasn’t done photographing prominent leaders in the area. QSR Magazine tapped Patrick to profile FOCUS Brands COO Kat Cole for a piece on the rising number of women and minority executives within the food service industry.
I’ve worked with the publisher before on several assignments in the Atlanta area, so I think I was a natural choice for this one. They originally found me here on Wonderful Machine!
Kat was not at all what I was expecting. Certain images come to mind when you think ‘COO of a huge national corporation’ and young, hip, and cool was not what I had in my head. She was relaxed and generous with her time, again a pleasant surprise.
I had talked with the magazine about getting some shots of her in her office, but, when I suggested it, she said she was the least office-y person around and wanted to focus on some more fun areas of the building.
Kat’s story, while unique, serves as a microcosm for the changing of the guard amongst corporate higher-ups. The trickle-down effect is real, notes Patrick, and can serve as motivation for young, hungry minds from varying backgrounds who want to rise up the social stratosphere.
I think [this trend is] something that’s way overdue, and it shows the people lower down in the company that, no matter who you are, if you have the skills and work hard, there’s a seat for you at the table. It’s good for people to be able to look at their bosses and be able to picture themselves in that role; it’s easier to be motivated when you don’t think there’s a glass ceiling above you or that only one type of person can ever be in charge.
Atlanta is a vibrant, transplant-heavy city which attracts talent from all over the globe. The growing metropolis is helping to carry our country futureward and doing good business along the way. Consider the findings of this 2017 report from McKinsey and Co., which looked at more than 1,000 public businesses: “companies that fall into the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to experience above-average financial results.”
I think that because of the diverse makeup of the city, businesses in Atlanta have naturally had a lot of opportunity to have women and minorities in positions of power, and the city fosters these things.
Two of the last three mayors have been women of color and one of the unofficial mottos of Atlanta is that we’re the city that’s ‘too busy to hate’. Like everywhere, we have more progress that needs to be made but I’m happy to see us moving in the right direction and not getting stuck in the past.
To end our conversation, I asked Patrick where he sees this movement in two decades. His answer was refreshingly blunt.
Hopefully in 20 years women and minorities being just as qualified as white men will be something that’s taken for granted and doesn’t merit discussion.
Art director: Tory Bartlett
See more of Patrick’s work at patrickheagney.com.
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