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.
Opened in November 1989, the White Marsh salon draws customers not only from Maryland but from nearby areas of Virginia, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The shop takes appointments seven days a week and is open 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The company does virtually no advertising and has built its success mainly on satisfied customers spreading the word, according to Mr. Segall.
Janice Biele, manager for sales and marketing at the Rouse-owned mall, says the specialty photo business is doing ++ "extremely well," adding, "We're pleased with their performance here."
Last fall the brothers opened second and third shops in New Jersey, followed by a fourth this year in Staten Island, N.Y. Elegant Images has formed a franchising company, and expects to see studios opening later this year in Columbia and in Towson as well as in the Boston and Chicago areas.
It all started several years ago when Mr. Segall came across a similar operation in a Honolulu shopping mall while attending a professional conference. Having grown up in the volume photo business -- his father and grandfather founded Segall-Majestic Photography, the leading photographer for school systems in the Mid-Atlantic region -- he was on the lookout for other opportunities with a high-yield potential.
Before launching a local version, the Segalls consulted a psychologist to determine how well the idea would go over with customers here. The concept was further refined, resulting in an upscale, high-fashion appearance to the stores. Today 5-foot-tall glamour portraits of pretty young women look down from the walls, inviting onlookers to pause and to walk in.
But being beautiful has its downside. All that glamour eventually has to be scrubbed off.
"It was really difficult getting the makeup off," says Nancy Charvat of Abingdon about her make-over. "I can't imagine how people like models or actresses do this all the time. It would be really hard."