This all started because of two photographs that were recently taken of Whitley. The one he likes is a friendly pose, taken by a movie director whom we met at a desert resort in California. He has no special interest in, or knowledge about, UFOs, so we met and talked with him and his wife just as friends.
The second one was snapped during a the book signing I wrote about in my diary A Trip Home and used as a publicity shot for Whitley’s interview on the Jerry Pippin radio show.
Whitley doesn’t care for the Pippin show photo and I can see why: he says it makes him look like some sort of Communist dictator.
The difference between the pictures got me thinking about our longtime friend, the photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Tim became famous for his portraits of well-known artists, for bringing out their “essence,” I guess you would call it. When it comes to portrait photos, I’ve always thought that you capture the image you EXPECT to get. Tim approaches all his subjects positively, and ends up being friends with most of them. This explains the incredibly varied group of people, ranging from porn stars to rock stars to CEOs, that we met at that restaurant dinner he arranged in New York City.
A friend wrote us this about the Pippin show photo: “The ‘new’ Whitley sends a powerful message. Did you think of that haircut, or did someone in PR advise you? Keep the black shirt, please! The above persona states plainly, ‘I know more than your brain will ever guess!'” I think their unconscious mind was telling them exactly what I read into that photograph as well. I don’t know anything about Jerry Pippin, and unlike some people I’ve encountered, I never speak ill of people I know nothing about, but maybe he believes, as many do, that Whitley is carrying around a lot of dark secrets about UFOs and ETs. In which case, the photo fits the subject very well.
But the truth is that Whitley is an explorer who is constantly in awe of his discoveries and eager to share them with others. The director David Slade caught this quality of wonder while the other photographer captured a different image entirely.
I wrote back to my friend: “Actually, the person who ‘advised’ Whitley on his haircut was Jay, who cuts both our hair. He’s the one whose lock of hair I took to the medium Glennys MacKay. It’s supposed to stand straight up ‘crew cut’ style, but was getting too long when this was taken in New York. He’s wearing black because we were staying with Tim Greenfield-Sanders, who has worn only black for pushing forty years, so we always wear black when we’re with him, as a kind of joke.”
Life is sometimes so much more innocent that we expect it to be, isn’t it?
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