Joe Pugliese Shows the Transformative Power of Haircuts on LA's Homeless
Sometimes the biggest impact comes from the smallest gestures. Jason Schneidman is a hairstylist and groomer that’s worked with Joe Pugliese on set for their jobs, but they recently collaborated on project that goes beyond the glitz of an editorial set. In his free time, Schneidman offers his time to cut the hair of homeless folk in Los Angeles, and after hearing about this ongoing service, Joe asked if he could document the process and people that Schneidman reaches out to. “It was important fo me to honor it in a very matter of fact way without building up the heavy sympathy approach that we see a lot,” Joe explains. “I just thought that this was a nice way into a singular thing that one person does that doesn’t necessarily change their lives but it might change their day… Do what you can with what you have and incrementally make somebody’s day better whether or not you change the world or change someone’s life is nearly here nor there.”
The series offers a look at Schneidman’s process and the effect that a haircut can have. Like Joe says, the minutes in that chair and the human attention that Schneidman gives will not change the trajectory of their lives, but it does offer a human moment and the opportunity to feel good about themselves and the world they're living in. “I wanted to illustrate the transformative property of a simple haircut and I didn’t want to do it so much for the haircut but with their expressions,” Joe says. “I used a long lens to stay out of the action, and I was a sort of fly out of the way so they didn’t feel like there was a photoshoot. it was important to him that it not be a complicated set up. This wasn’t about photography.” Joe’s distance allowed for even more authentic moments so the transformation is ever clearer and deeper.
Often, the photographs are less about the haircut and more about the connection between two people. Living on the streets can be isolating and stressful, but Schneidman gives his clients the opportunity to sit and connect with another person in a context that has no expectation or ulterior motive. “It looks like they’re happy to just be gently handled. They’re happy to have somebody who’s really caring for them in a way that is respectful,” Joe says. “There’s a level of trust that I think we all relate to even when we’re sitting in a barber’s chair… His interaction with them taught me a lot about how I interact with my subjects. And I saw a lot of the same trust building steps that he takes with his subjects that I tried to take with my photographic subjects.” As we approach a season of giving, Joe and Schneidman remind us that sometimes the best gift you can give is your time and attention.