IF you want to know what's going on in a Maine town, what people are talking about and what cultural fads have finally reached us here in the hinterlands, the beauty salon or barbershop is always a good place to start. In Lewiston that place is Sarah Jeanne's Family Hair Care, on Sabbattus Street. "I have a lot of aunts and relatives in Buckfield and Turner," says photographer Melonie Bennett. "And when I asked about beauty shops to photograph, they said, 'Sarah Jeanne's. It's where everyone goes."
To capture a "day-in-the-life" of the popular salon and spa, Bennett made multiple visits (on multiple days). The welcome was warm, especially considering the intimacy of the various procedures being performed there. "I'm always surprised by how cooperative people are," says the Gorham-based photographer. "Everyone was a willing participant."
Even more surprising to Bennett were some of Sarah Jeanne's many cosmetic treatments, including haircuts, permanents, manicures, pedicures, massages of various body and facial parts, piercings, waxings, "airbrush" tanning, body wraps, electronically assisted skin treatments, and an Indian hair-removal method called "threading," in which a cosmetologist uses a length of thread, held between the mouth and hand, to neatly remove hair from the eyebrows.
For Bennett, there was also the joy of being an artist watching other artists at work. A hair salon is a place of aesthetics, after all, where definitions of beauty are arrived at in deeply personal ways. It's the same with taking a picture, explains Bennett. Formal training helps, but ultimately, you just have to trust your instinct, and clip - or snap - away.
"If I haven't seen it before, I figure other people haven't either," says Bennett. "If I think an image is interesting, other people usually do, too."