SHELLEY LAWRENCE bio - Chris Ross Leong

My love of photography was inherited.

Dad was never without his Nikon slung around his neck.To my knowledge he had no formal training, yet his images were stunning.

I had my first camera around the age of eight. It never occurred to me that I would one day be in the business of taking pictures.

I took the liberal arts track in college after an illuminating seven years at a girl’s school in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights. Mimicking my father’s career trajectory, I slid into my first paying job with an ad agency - BBD&O San Francisco - on the client/account side fetching coffee and answering phones.

Once “experienced” in the world of MAD MEN, I transitioned to the creative end as assistant to iconoclastic copywriter Hal Riney – then helming campaigns like Yamaha and Orville Redenbacher for Botsford Ketchum.

Well-crafted TV commercials can elect presidents. Riney was credited for getting Reagan in office a second time.

But for me, long format programming held more interest. More pictures, more story.

I looked over the horizon and saw the idiot box in the distance. An opening came up at the Westinghouse flagship station KPIX-TV, also in San Francisco, and I snatched it.

This glamorous entry point began in the commercial sales department selling air-time.

Not a good fit.

From there, within the station I eased into a field crew position as its audio assist, shooting commercials for a purveyor of bedroom mattresses. The spots ran after midnight and were X-rated.

Life happens.

I met a guy. He convinced me to switch coasts and move to Philadelphia.

In a less than seamless transition I worked in fashion at the historic Strawbridge & Clothier Department Store as a special events coordinator before joining forces with KYW-TV in variety programming.

Before Maury Povich was DNA testing young men for paternity, he hosted a 90-minute live show I associate-produced that was a chaotic mix of talk and music. So beyond the on-screen confessions of murdering housewives we had performances from the likes of Ben Vereen, Smokey Robinson and Spiro Gyra.

Three or so years into Philly cheesesteaks and stick-ball, my longing for the Pacific Ocean beached me. I crossed the country again to continue in television in Los Angeles.

My clients here included ABC, NBC, CBS, Warner Bros., Paramount, Lifetime, A&E Biography, Actuality Productions, The History Channel, Telepictures, Fox and Lorimar.

I worked on camera as an entertainment reporter and behind-the-camera as a writer, field producer-director.

A fashion highlight of that long career was an assignment to write and produce the hour-long television documentary on Estée Lauder, the woman and the cosmetics empire she built in NYC.

Photography has a shelf life not enjoyed by fast-food TV.

I love its permanency. Fashion, is a visual, tactile representation of our history.

That resonates with me.

Fashion photography, without a word in print, can tell a compelling story.

That’s why I’m doing what I do.

In my partnership with Chris Ross Leong it’s my job to pull the pieces together – the location, the models, the stylists and to share in the oversight of the business end of things. I document the prep with my trusty Leica which shoots both stills and video.

So, in the end, I’m not so far from where I began...

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