Barbershopping the Baby
When I walked into Dye's Barbershop in Bowling Green for the first time in December 2005, I was frantic. I had only a week left to complete a photo story for my first photojournalism class at WKU. The semester had come and gone, and I was getting desperate. So, I mustered up the courage to go into Dye's and check it out. Crossing the threshold, it felt as though I had stepped back in time. The small three seat barbershop (only two of the chairs are used to cut hair, the third holds the newspaper when it's not being read) was overflowing with charm. The walls were covered with nicknacks and photos from customers. Two mounted deer heads hung on one of the walls. This place was perfect! It was super visual, and the owner, David Dye, seemed like he would be a great subject. David is in his late 60s and has white bushy hair (kinda like a tamer version of Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future) with a white beard and glasses. Without hesitation I sat down in one of the working chairs, and asked for a trim. I figured that getting my hair cut would be my icebreaker, despite the fact that I had just gotten a haircut a week earlier.
As David cut my hair, I talked to him about the shop and tried to see if he would be good for my story. In addition to being a barber, he also played in a bluegrass band and drove a school bus. See, in basic photo I was under the impression that the more jobs a person had, the better their story would be. And well, seeing as David had three, that made him perfect. "Everyone else will have stories with people who do one thing or at the most two things," I thought to myself. "But, no one in my class will have somebody that does three things!" After he was done cutting my hair I paid him the $10 with a pretty big tip (I didn't want his first impression of me to bad) and then I left without even mentioning my story. I kicked myself as I returned home to my apartment. I knew I couldn't let this story slip away, so, for a second time, I mustered up some courage and went back to the barbershop.
I spent every day I could there, even shooting the day before my project was due. I got to know David pretty well, finding commonalities in things like our hometowns (David is from Morgantown, Ky. and I'm from Morgantown, WVa. ... something that he still talks about with me to this day). In the end, despite the time constraints, I actually did pretty well. I got an A on the assignment and my professor asked to keep it as an example of what can be done with a photo story at the last minute.
Six years and hundreds of haircuts have passed since I did that story on David. I've had multiple newspaper jobs and internships, I've moved three times and my wife Kelly and I have had a baby (that would be Milo). But, every time I go back to Bowling Green I try and stop in to see David. So, needless to say, when Kelly and I decided that it was time for Milo's first haircut, I knew just the guy.
David was so good with Milo. He had him sit on Kelly's lap and he began cutting, all the while distracting with jokes and sleights of hand. He even gave Milo a sucker, which normally we wouldn't approve of, but under the circumstances we thought it was appropriate. I'm not going to lie, it was sad watching Milo's hair fall to the floor, but I knew that the baby mullet had to go, and now was the time. As David clipped, I shot photos of him working his magic. Then as quickly as he had started, it was over. We scooped up Milo's locks and I got out my wallet to pay. "No," David said, "This one's on me."