I have a deep admiration for the work done by Mary Ellen Matthews, the talented artist behind the lens for the SNL bumper shots each week. A bumper shot is the image you see of that week’s guest host or musical guest, that appear for all of three seconds as the show returns from commercial.

Mary Ellen Matthews has been creating those images since 1999, and her body of work to date, is an incredible gallery of musical, theater, and political icons of the last twenty years. Celebrity subjects aside, the images are fun, creative, zany, off-the-wall, dramatic, and utilize a slightly softer color palette than Peter Max used when stormed the art world in the 60’s.

The beauty in her assignment, is that she is working with professionals. She has an incredible team surrounding her, a world class wardrobe and prop department, and the most animated human beings on the planet – all with a terrific sense of humor and are game for anything. Some are among the most beautiful beings on the planet, some are as cosmetically challenged as the rest of us, but ALL are willing have some fun and mug it up for Mary Ellen’s lens.

This got me thinking… who among MY world as a professional photographer/studio owner would/could/might fit into that category? Who are my most animated clients? Who would mug it up for the camera? Who would enjoy the challenge of taking a common household object and turning it into an improv routine, just long enough for me to light, compose, and capture an image that could very well be THEIR bumper shot in life?

High School Seniors, that’s who.

So my challenge is on. My on-going project for the next few weeks is to photograph a handful of students and feebly and humbly attempt to create a bumper shot or two for each of them. With all due respect to the genius of Mary Ellen Matthews and her creative team, I know good and well that I can never fully re-create the incredible look that has gained her recognition on SNL, but my knock-off bumper shots are still a lot of fun for my seniors and worth the attempt.

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