Jackie Reifer, John Saccone, Shelly Wallace and Frans Rijnbout of the Celebration Theater Ensemble by Al Fisher

Portrait Photographers
Vital To Our Arts Economy
by Michael Menes

     While working with Karen on developing the MIME SPOKEN HERE platform I had the honor to help restore so many wonderful images. Some of the images were the work of Boston based commercial photographer Al Fisher who took a particular interest in photographing performing artists beginning with the street performers in Quincy Market. Some of these images were his most notable fine art works and were featured in a show at the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston. Al Fisher passed away from complications after suffering a stroke in December, 2008. (The Boston Globe Article). When Tony passed in 2002, thankfully, Al sent some of these beautiful works of art (signed) to Karen. While doing research to try to determine the origin of photographs, I discovered a short video on YouTube of Al Fisher working in his studio down in Boston.

Al Fisher Photograph of Tony Montanaro
Pierrot. Photo by Al Fisher.

    This wonderful 8 minute video of Al Fisher’s work from the World of Photography YouTube Channel is embedded here. Al was a passionate, driven photographer who focused on capturing the “essence” of actors, mimes, jugglers and street performers. One of the portraits from the sessions he did with Tony appear in this short documentary. Tony kept going back to Al which resulted in the beautiful pierrot images and the classy shots of the Celebration Theater Ensemble.

     Nick Capasso, the senior curator at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park was quoted as saying, “On one hand, the photographer is trying to reveal truth, but the portrait photographer is always dealing with layers of masks. I think the ultimate challenge for Al was to show the truth and the mask at the same time.” The metaphorical portrait of Tony with his mask perched on the side of his head is exactly what Al was seeking.


World of Photography YouTube Channel

On one hand, the photographer is trying to reveal truth, but the portrait photographer is always dealing with layers of masks.

– Nick Capasso, Senior Curator, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park

     I suspect that photographers these days (like myself) are often less specialized and we must, out of necessity, rebrand ourselves and stretch out as web designers, marketing directors, video producers, consultants, branding specialists, content creators, or whatever the label is. The lingo has definitely changed along with the technology. But some things never change, like a damn good photo.

A series of images by portrait and commercial photographer Al Fisher.
Tony and the Celebration Theater Ensemble with Jackie Riefer, John Saccone, Shelly Wallace and Frans Rijnbout.



     I do a lot of work with both stills and video for my clients. Stills and video go hand-in-hand. I like to think of stills as the first frame of a video. If that first frame is compelling, it’s like a window that looks out into another world, it just might spark an interest to click on an attached video and explore that world on the other side. There’s a right way and a wrong way to craft video thumbnails like the ones we see on successful YouTube channels. If it’s a bad thumbnail, it’s easily looked over in the online crush of competing information. The still, or book cover of the video, is incredibly important. It stops time and it allows the mind of the viewer to use their imagination. The viewer is active whereas a video places the viewer distinctly in the back seat for a ride, more or less depending on the type of video. Over and over again I can say that getting views and likes is much easier for stills than it is for videos. Post an album of shots on Facebook and immediately the images can be seen. Stills have high impact and high return. If a video is posted as a link, good luck! Very few will take the time to dig any deeper. A video uploaded to Facebook that doesn’t link to another website will play in the timeline. If the opening is catchy, it will generate more views and more likes. My point is however, that the photograph and the photographer are absolutely essential.

Walker Between Worlds by Leland Faulkner

Walker Between Worlds by Leland Faulkner

TOURING ARTISTS by Michael Menes. Some portraits I’ve shot of performing artists here in Maine.
Amanda Huotari as Pretty Face, Beatles to the Blues by Rick Adam, Juggler Kyle Driggs and Spymonkey’s Aitor Basauri.



     It’s not like it once was. In the days of my great grandfather who came to New York City in the 1920s to seek his fortunes as a leading financial advisor, the equipment was only in the hands of photographers. My great grandfather Clinton Davidson sought out Blank & Stoller Photography of Hoboken. When I republished my great grandfather’s self-help book 2 years ago in 2020, I used the lovely portrait for the cover that I found in the attic of our family home in New Jersey. The portrait is now framed and hangs on the wall behind me in my office in Buckfield, Maine. As I had investigated for months trying to piece back together his life and career, a story that had never been told to us as kids growing up on the huge estate he had left behind in Mendham in Morris County, New Jersey, I delighted to find this historic portrait of him in his prime as a business guru of his day. Then I discovered an image from the same photography studio in Hoboken, NJ of the engineer who completed the Holland Tunnel, Ole Singstad.

Two portraits from Blank & Stoller Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey from the 1920’s.
My great grandfather, Clinton Davidson on the left and engineer Ole Singstad. A 1920’s portrait of Charlie Chaplin is in the middle.


     Charlie Chaplin was born in 1889, a year younger than my great grandfather. Clinton could have been wearing the same exact suit as Ole Singstad who had also hired Blank & Stoller for the images that would appear in the national press. This image of Ole Singstad is preserved in the Hoboken Historical Museum. You needed to be a sharp dresser! Clinton liked to “invest in the best of the best” as he wrote in his self-help book, saying that being the top in ones field was the ultimate goal in the business world.


Jim Moore's New Book ~ Don't Miss This!

     From the 1920’s to the 1980’s to the 2020’s… Portrait photography is in demand. A long time friend and colleague of mine, Jim Moore, the performing arts photographer from New York City who is famous for his shots of tight rope daredevil Philip Petit (Man on a Wire) is publishing his new book featuring 10 years of his work documenting the eccentric arts. As I’m writing this, Jim is sending the one copy of the proof of his new book up here to Maine. I’ll be working with Leland Faulkner to create a reveal of the new book for social media. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book! This book will be a limited edition (500 copies only). They can be ordered at the link below. Without photographers like Jim Moore, Al Fisher, and many others who often don’t receive nearly enough credit for their work, the field would truly suffer and decline. There would simply be less work for everyone.

-Michael Menes,
Webmaster, Mime Spoken Here

Order a Copy of Jim Moore’s New Book “Don’t Miss This!” A Decade of Eccentric Performing Arts Photography ($39.95).


Jim Moore's Don't Miss This!


No tip jar, but if you haven’t already, please sign up for the MIME SPOKEN HERE mailing list! If you enjoyed this work and would like to chip in to support the platform, donations can be made through PayPal! Click here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *