Photo of Sidney Myer by Gary Williams at a black piano with a red curtain backdrop

Sidney Myer: A Cabaret Treasure

Sidney Myer is, I think, one the most adored, respected and cherished New York cabaret performers. He’s also been booking acts for cabaret rooms for over 40 years so he knows everyone... and everyone knows Sidney. Just a couple of days before this shoot is was recognised for his work by the Mabel Mercer Foundation. 

I wanted to include him in my “At Home” series where I photograph people of note in their homes. “I’d be honoured,” he told me, “but I’m having construction done and my place is a mess. How about the club instead?” The club is Don’t Tell Mama - a legendary piano bar and cabaret room and mainstay of New York’s theatre scene. I’m usually pretty strict about this series actually being in someone’s home but this time I made an exception because as Sidney explained, “I’ve been Cabaret Manager there since the 1980’s, so it truly is my home and I spend more time awake there than I do at my apartment!” 

Cabaret singer Sidney Myer facing the camera in a dark setting with dim lighting

We used two different locations: the piano bar upstairs with the deep red curtain as a backdrop, and then the main cabaret room downstairs. There was no natural light down there to work with, so I was just using the overhead ceiling lights which can be challenging at the best of times. Sidney‘s face has a cherub like quality which reminded me of something that Caravaggio might have painted, so for some shots I used what light we had to evoke that Caravaggio ‘oscuro’ style which I think does give him a timeless, painterly feel.  

Photo by Gary Williams of Sidney Myer standing on the steps of Don't Tell Mama
Photos of different cabaret acts at Don't Tell Mama
Photo of Sidney Myer by Gary Williams
Photo by Gary Williams of Sidney Myer atop a black piano with a red curtain backdrop
Sign that says No Dancing Allowed

My background is in portraiture and street photography. I love trying to capture a person’s essence in a photograph. I am a curious person by nature and always want to know the real story, what a person is really like behind their public facade.

This At Home series gives me access to the homes of people I admire and respect. I am deeply grateful for their trust in letting me into their private spaces to photograph them and capture a real insight into what makes them tick.

Unlike shooting weddings which can be quite hectic, these photo shoots usually give me time to get to know my subject and experiment with different locations and ideas. 

Photographer Gary Williams


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