On Friday afternoon (May 11), in preparation for my new gig as a contributing writer and columnist for SLANTRESS Magazine, I headed, with some trepidation (shy little me?!?), for a photo shoot, including head shots, to Jazzy Studios, located in The Motor House Baltimore (part of the trending Station North arts district in midtown Baltimore). SLANTRESS Publisher and Editor, Deborah Buynum-Billips, had introduced me to the photographer, Aisha Butler, via email that morning, assuring me that I would have fun, and encouraging me to bring smiles.
But as the hour drew near, on an exceptionally hot Spring day, I was feeling neither fun nor smiley. The hot and humid air was turning my picture-perfect smooth coif into a half-curly mess! Nevertheless, I packed my favorite dress in my car and began a typically “Jackie” adventure, accidentally parking in the Motel 6 parking lot next door to The Motor House, and then backing up with a bang into a post (no harm was done to my beloved car, Coco Chocolat, during this maneuver) while exiting that lot and proceeding to the correct one, where Aisha was waiting for me with a warm smile and a calming greeting.
As Aisha escorted me into the building, I recognized that I was standing in the middle of a famous Baltimore tourist spot, Graffiti Alley, which I’d read about and often passed by, but had not had the time to visit. (I would later get my chance to take a few photographs of my own after the shoot.) Aisha gave me a quick tour and history of the building as we made our way to the suite. Upon entering, I was blown away by the airy, sun-washed loft that houses the Studios; and after being introduced to Jeff Butler, business partner and husband of Aisha, I made my way into the elegant yet comfortable changing room, where I nonchalantly slipped into my dress and allowed myself to be transported into the world of professional photography.
My “Star Turn”
For the next hour, with smooth jazz music and, later, even some jumpin’ old James Brown funk playing in the background, I posed, sashayed, and danced(!) while Aisha gently and expertly guided me, changing lighting, distance, and focus while snapping dozens of photos. Between shots, Aisha, Jeff, and I engaged in conversation about ourselves and our lives, finding commonalities in our journeys (being parental caregivers, still learning the ins and outs of our respective dream careers, and discovering that Aisha and I are both Western Doves: alumnae of Western High School).
Before I knew it, the hour was over! But not before I enlisted Jeff to take a photo of me and Aisha in the studio; he laughingly claimed not to be a good cellphone photographer (“because my hands shake!”). We exchanged business cards, hugs, and best wishes as Aisha and I left the Studios.
Back in the lobby, I turned the tables on Aisha, becoming the photographer and she, my “assistant” (holding my belongings) as I snapped some shots of the license-plate-filled walls (a nod to the building’s history as the first Ford dealership in Baltimore) and a current art display.
Then, back outside, I finally got a look at, and a couple of photos of, Graffiti Alley!
What had started as an uncommonly tired and moody day for me ended with an uplifting hour of love, laughter, and lessons, the most important lesson being that good things most often happen when you least expect them and when you need them most.
More About Jazzy Studios and The Motor House
A brief description of Jazzy Studios appears on the web page of The Motor House Baltimore. It confirms my wonder-filled, star-struck experience and adds a few more pertinent details: one, that Jeff Butler started the company “as a result of [his] love of fashion and photography”; two, that the company’s clientele has expanded around the country and abroad—including Baltimore’s own renowned artist, Joyce J. Scott; and three, “They also use their talents to volunteer and give back to causes that strengthen individual lives and communities. Family is very important to them and you’ll very often [hear] them say, ‘once you come through our doors, you’re family.’”
An equally brief history of The Motor House Baltimore also confirms (with photos) that the building did indeed house a car dealership in its early days, more than a century ago. More recently, the building was known as Loads of Fun, until 2013, when it “was acquired by BARCO, a non-profit real estate development corporation that’s dedicated to providing affordable and sustainable spaces for Baltimore’s growing artistic community.” It is now home to art shows and other events, eateries, and more.
That’s a Wrap!
There is so much “more” going on in Baltimore that I’m chagrined to say I haven’t yet explored! But stay tuned to baltimoreblackwoman and, coming soon, my new columns, “Baltimore’s Beat” and “Point of View” in SLANTRESS Magazine.
Thanks, again, Jeff and Aisha Butler, for making me feel at home at Jazzy Studios!