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Taylor Hicks and Marilyn Monroe: A Photographer’s Story

By Holley Dey  ©2010 OnTapBlog All rights reserved
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All photographs provided by Taylor Christian Jones and reproduced with permission. The car had been purchased at auction, and was made available for the photo shoot by a private collector.  Two truckloads of equipment and gear traveled Interstate 65 from Nashville to the local Birmingham warehouse where the session took place.  In all, two months of planning and preparation were invested before a single picture was taken, and before Taylor Hicks took the driver’s seat in the 1962 convertible. The Chrysler 300 is in pristine condition.  The odometer reads 4900 miles and the paint is original.  Originally owned by MGM Studios and driven by Marilyn Monroe, the car was a perfect fit for the “old Hollywood” feel that photographer Taylor Christian Jones hoped to create for the photo shoot.

The shoot had been commissioned by CityVision, Inc., a Birmingham based company that welcomes visitors to the City with information about local attractions, eateries, and nightspots via television and print.  One of the company’s products is EXCURSIONS, a hardcover, high quality publication placed in hotel guest rooms.  Each year, the book includes interviews with celebrities whose roots lie in the Birmingham area.  In 2009, American Idol season 2 winner Ruben Studdard was featured.  The 2010 book has just been released and includes an interview with and several photographs of Alabama native and American Idol season 5 winner Taylor Hicks.

Hicks was recruited for the project by CityVision president/CEO Brent Boyd.  Boyd arranged a photo shoot for September 2009 when Taylor was in Birmingham to star in the Broadway production of GREASE, and to perform at WorkPlay Theatre.  Photographer Taylor Jones was booked for the shoot; he had worked with CityVision in the past and impressed the CEO with both the quality of his work and his professionalism.  Jones was introduced to Hicks at soundcheck for the WorkPlay show, and subsequently photographed the concert.

Following the Workplay show, Taylor Jones developed more elaborate ideas for a photo shoot with Taylor Hicks.  To incorporate both the singer’s retro style and theater background, the photographer proposed a scene that would recreate an old fashioned movie set, complete with classic car.  When Jones learned that Hicks is a Marilyn Monroe fan, the pieces all fell together.

The shoot was scheduled for December 2009 and held at Birmingham’s Old Car Heaven, a unique live music venue where an extensive collection of antique American cars is on display. The Chrysler 300H was placed against a 14 foot backdrop of the historic Birmingham entertainment district that had been  printed from an old 1930s photograph.  Lighting was set to provide a constant light orange glow and a sense of theater.  Strobes were placed overhead and all around the set.  A Fender Gibson 345 guitar was borrowed from Bailey Bros. Music Company to faithfully reproduce Hicks’ concert style.

The weather was particularly cold on the day of the shoot, but it was warm inside where both Hicks and the production team were upbeat and enthusiastic about the project.  Boyd reports that Taylor Hicks was a true southern gentleman, charming the production team with his good natured conversation and sense of humor.  When a few extra minutes were needed to retrieve a missing wardrobe item, Taylor kept everyone entertained, cracking jokes and taking several additional pictures. The photo session had been scheduled for thirty minutes, but half an hour soon became three hours in front of and around Taylor Jones’ digital camera (Canon 5D Mark II).  At one point, Hicks claimed the camera himself to review the images.   Taylor Jones was surprised to find that the musician could operate the relatively complicated camera without instruction. Taylor Christian Jones is himself relatively new to photography. The now 23 year old reports that his first commercial shoot was completed at age 20.  He calls what he does his “obsession” rather than his profession, a reflection of his intense focus.  Jones has photographed several bands including Switchfoot and Need to Breathe, as well as singer Ted Nugent.  Jones recently filmed his first professional music videos, and envisions a future in cinematography.  Taylor Jones provided the photographs of Ruben Studdard included in the 2009 EXCURSIONS guest directory. The 2010 edition of EXCURSIONS fills 92 pages, featuring Taylor Hicks and including Taylor Jones’ stunning photographs of the musician and the classic Chrysler automobile.  The book will be a staple of hotel guest rooms throughout Birmingham this year.  A limited number of copies are available for direct purchase.  Inquiries may be directed to Brent Boyd at brent@cityvision.tv.

The production team. Back row, from left to right: Taylor Christian Jones (photographer), Kris McAuley (production assistant), Allison Jones (shoot producer), Taylor Hicks, Brent Boyd (President/CEO, CityVision). Front row, from left to right: Celine Chenowith Russell (shoot stylist), Krista Conlin (Vice President, Wilbanks Agency)

For more on photographer Taylor Christian Jones: http://www.taylorchristianjones.com/links.html

For more on singer/musician Taylor Hicks: http://www.taylorhicks.com/

For more on CityVision: www.cityvision.tv

To view last year’s (2009) CityVision Excursions Travel Guide: http://publications.ingagepublication.com/EXCURSIONS2009/

For more on Old Car Heaven: http://oldcarheaven.com/

Marilyn Monroe

 

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for this great story!!! Am not surprised the 30 minute session turned into 3 hours. Taylor Hicks is a worthy subject, a phenomenal musician, and an exceptional human being. Did not know he was a fan of Marilyn Monroe. Did know, from embarrassing personal experience back in 2006, that he can not only operate a complex camera on his own but can give instructions in its operation. He did just that, with utter grace.

    October 5, 2010
  2. tishtx #

    What an interesting look into behind the scene at a photo shoot. I had no idea all the work and arrangements that are required to complete a successful photo session. I’m sure Taylor C. Jones has begun a long and productive career.

    I sure would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when Taylor Hicks was keeping the crew laughing. :-)

    October 5, 2010
  3. juliegr #

    I’m delighted that the city business owners continue to publicize the “home grown” talent in Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard by including sections on both artists in their visitor’s welcome book in 2009 and 2010. It certainly helps that both artists are upstanding citizens of Birmingham and are proud to represent their state.

    The photography is beautiful and Taylor is a wonderful subject — both in “action” at Work Play and driving Marilyn Monroe’s vintage car. I’m sure he never imagined he would be sitting in such an amazing car for a photo shoot.

    The photography by Taylor Jones seems very professional in content and I believe his vision to pursue his “obsession” will keep him visiting interesting locations and meeting amazing people for years. What a fantastic way for him to earn a living by doing what he loves to do. Thanks for sharing the information on this beautiful momento. Hope Taylor Hicks does schedule a gig in Birmingham soon so I can pick up my own book.

    October 5, 2010
  4. Pattie #

    Great story – he goes so well with that beautiful car and gorgeous guitar…

    October 5, 2010
  5. Louise/4Tay #

    This is such a special piece, THN. Thank you. I loved every word and the photos are without a doubt AWESOME!!

    October 5, 2010
  6. jerseyirish #

    Great story, fantastic pics thanks for posting!!!

    JI

    October 5, 2010
  7. hicksfan7 #

    Wonderful! And also so interesting – thank you!

    October 5, 2010
  8. claireb7tx #

    love it! thanks for posting.

    October 5, 2010
  9. NolaMar #

    What a great article! Love those pictures and hearing the story about the TCJ photo shoot. Thanks so much. I hope I can get a copy of the guide.

    October 5, 2010
  10. Wow, what a nice job you did on this piece! You did your homework and got all the facts for us. I’m quite impressed, m’dear!

    October 5, 2010
  11. Dee #

    great story – will be looking for this book !

    October 5, 2010
  12. sweetsmoke1 #

    Just ordered it! Thanks Brent!

    October 5, 2010
  13. Gr8fulheart #

    Great article! I’m sure Taylor was thrilled at being able to sit in the same seat as Marilyn Monroe did at one time. The man is multi-talented, so his ability to handle any camera is not surprising to me. With Taylor Hick’s sense of humor; entwined with professionalism, I’m certain the whole experience of this shoot, was a total blast.
    Book? Hmmm~may feel the need to have one in my possession.
    Thanx for sharing this article. BTW~the ‘tough-guy’ picture is so convincing…LOL♥

    October 5, 2010
  14. Nancy Paonessa #

    Just ordered my copies can’t wait til they arrive! Looking forward to the seeing the photos

    October 5, 2010

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