SHERMAN OAKS—Canyon news recently had the opportunity to interview actor and photographer Johnny Cole. The talented star has taken up a vocation that came to him through a spiritual manner. Here is Johnny in his own words.

Q-Tell us, what made you go into photography?

A-“I have always had an interest in photography, taking classes, shooting, keeping up to date on the advancements in technology. All that is very practical, but the decision to turn professional, like the rest of my life was a little more serendipitous and slightly mystical.

I was studying on-camera acting privately for four years with Laura Hart and Sky Redlove. They are the last of a generation that is still connected to the master craftsmen of ”˜old Hollywood.’ Laura studied with Clark Gable’s coach and Sky worked with Hitchcock, among others. Besides camera acting technique, a big part of what they taught me from an actor’s point of view was, ”˜How to take a picture!’

“They put me through my paces. They must have critiqued my work from over a 100 headshot sessions that I did with other photographers. I must say a lot of it wasn’t very good and unfortunately, I can’t blame all that on the photographers. It was rough going.

Laura would say stuff like, ”˜There’s a little bit there in the eyes’ or, ”˜You can send it out if you want.’ Which meant, Don’t show those pictures to anybody. There’s a real skill to having a good picture taken. I think it’s the hardest thing you can do in the visual medium. When you’re acting or performing, you’ve got movement, dialogue, background music, production value, editing and sometimes other people. You don’t even have to be very good to make it look good. You get your headshot taken, it’s just you. More specifically, it’s your essence showing through your eyes. Easier said than done.

“As for the mystical part, I woke up one morning a while back and the first thought that popped into my head was, start taking headshots for performers. It was a pretty loud message, but I had never considered taking headshots so I didn’t think anything of it. I got up, had a coffee and checked my e-mail to discover that Laura, my teacher, had passed away that night. It was clear as day that she was giving me the nudge. It wasn’t much longer after that I started shooting and guiding people through the same process that she taught me. As a friend of mine told me later, ”˜Ya know, when you are the one studying with a master, and they pass on, guess who has to step up?’”

Q-Of all the artistic endeavors you have embarked on, what makes photography stand out for you?

A-“I love the immediacy of photography. It invites you become fully present ”“ in the now. To really see what is there in front of you. You have to focus, so to speak. Specifically, when I photograph performers, I find I bring a lot of my skill set to the table. Not just as a photographer, but as an actor, director and coach. I even find I’m applying relaxation and body awareness techniques I use in teaching yoga and meditation. I have always had a passion to help others realize their potential. When I am shooting, I help others to see and show themselves, sometimes for the first time. Although it’s only a small part of the equation, if I can help someone get a good headshot, they can take that around and bang on some doors. My work may even help to get one opened.”

Q-What is your style? And who are your subjects?

A-“My client base is comprised of all types of performers and is especially tailored to those journeying through their own personal transformation. I am passionate about working with professionals who want to stretch beyond their current self-perception and courageously reveal who they are–often to their own surprise. I work with all kinds of people, whether they are newly arrived to LA and grappling with who they are and what makes them marketable or a seasoned performer looking to reveal more of their experience or ever-shifting category.

“My style is all about the eyes. That’s what I was trained to do and it’s what I know how to help people with. Many people say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I say they’re the P.A. system because when I do portrait photography, I get your eyes to talk. They broadcast, “This is who I am, and this is how I play!” The eyes are the focal point where you have the best chance of shining forth in the marketplace. Sometimes casting directors will cover your whole face with piece of paper and only have the eyes showing, or they will hold the picture up to the light and look at it through the back to see who’s coming through your eyes. So yeah, I shoot eyes!”

Q-You speak very passionately of this new vocation in your life. What are your long-term goals for this specific passion of yours?

A-“I really enjoy the discipline that headshot photography offers. You have to work within certain industry parameters. I want to go as far into that framework as I can. After that, I want to branch out and do more broad range portrait photography —maybe for publicists and magazines —as well as artistic shoots. I will just let the seeing take me where it goes.”

Johnny Cole can be reached through his website or at 310-686-1070.