Ali [agent and director of The Wall Group]: I was always a major product junkie growing up. I loved nothing better than going to Walgreens. I bought Aqua Net and Wet ‘n Wild when I was probably twelve. I loved fashion—I loved magazines. In fact, I was the girl who would dress all of her friends to get ready for things. I was always dressing up. Cass doesn’t like me to wear dresses. I wear them anyway.
Cass [photographer]: [Laughs] She does whatever she wants. She’s the Aries.
Ali: Anyway, I went to school and got really into photography and that’s where Cass and I met, because we were in photo. Actually, we weren’t in photo together but we were always in the dark room at the same time.
Cass: I was trying to make out with her in the dark room.
Ali: I was trying to make out with you in the dark room is more like it.
Cass: Did we ever make out in the dark room?
Ali: Kinda. Actually, do you know what our favorite thing is? It’s this Japanese hair product, this waxy stick, called Tancho. I associate that smell with Cass because when we met, she was using that product, and I just thought that was her smell. I was constantly trying to figure out what this smell was. I love it.
Cass: I haven’t worn it in forever because the stick's gone all rigor mortis—it’s probably, like, twenty years old. I need to get a new one. I got it from Seth Green, you know, the actor? He turned me on to it. He was my friend from LA. Anyway, we went to Smith. She wasn’t gay then.
Ali: Not until I smelled the Tancho. [Laughs] And so, um, I thought that I wanted to be a photographer—
Cass: And then she realized you have to carry shit.
Ali: [Laughs] No, I interned at this company in New York that did all the production for Annie Leibovitz, Pamela Hanson, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Through that, I met a woman who worked at Art Partner. She was repping Mario Testino. When I graduated college, I contacted her and said I wanted to be Mario’s assistant. And she was like, ‘Mmm, not really. You’re not a cute young guy. But I need an assistant.’ And so I went to work at Art Partner and I did everything.
Cass: Just the thought of you, being a photo assistant.
Ali: It would be ridiculous.
Cass: She photo-assisted me once because I didn’t have anyone when I was starting out. And she was like, ‘Uhhhh, I’ll pick this up [motions to tiny object] and meet you upstairs.’
Ali: Anyway, I loved hair and makeup for myself but I wasn’t thinking about it as a career. I knew Brooke Wall, who started [the artist agency] The Wall Group, and she was like, ‘Why don’t you just come work with me?’ And I’ve been at The Wall Group as an agent for 11 years now; I’m the director and a partner. It’s interesting because you get to represent so much amazing talent. I love being able to ask my [hairstylist, makeup-artist, and stylist] clients, ‘What’s your favorite this? What’s your favorite that? What’s the best new whatever?’ We get to see everything and anything.
Cass: The truth is, I got together with Ali because she got free products. That was my main incentive.
Ali: [Laughs] No, but we do like to get mani-pedis together.
Cass: But I usually don’t get nail color, and it’s because I bite my nails. So, I don’t want to bite polish. I prefer bare.
Ali: No, I feel like you always do gray.
Cass: My toes are always gray.
Ali: I always do my toes. I always do the same color: Size Matters by Essie. And lately I started doing my fingers. But normally I’m always bare, too. Cass makes fun of me because pink is my favorite color. She’s like, ‘I mean, you’d have to have pink as your favorite color.’
Cass: At our old apartment, everything was pink. The curtains were pink, the bed sheets were pink; everything was pink. And I was like, ‘You know, there are other colors.’ And she was like, ‘What, camel?’
Ali: That’s just my natural... I gravitate towards that.
Cass: Pink and camel! That’s it.
Ali: I’m a girly-girl in the sense that I like pink and I like getting dressed up, I like products, but I’m not doing a full face of makeup. And I don’t do my hair. I air-dry it. I feel like a hippie who loves shit. Do you know what I mean? Who loves products.
Cass: She’s a materialistic hippie.
Ali: I mean, that’s awful. It sounds so bad.
Cass: It’s not that bad. She loves sparkly things.
Ali: I use this every day—Amazing Cosmetics Velvet Mineral Foundation and the pressed powder. It’s really good. It doesn’t look like you’re wearing makeup, swear to god. Koh Gen Do, I like their foundation and their concealer, and By Terry Light Expert in Golden Light.
Cass: I like that too.
Ali: And I love sandalwood and amber. I wear them every day; I like to mix them. And I always wear mascara. I have light eyelashes—short, light eyelashes... It’s a bummer. Our daughter and our son have long ones, but both Cass and I don’t have good eyelashes. I try every single mascara. I’ve been through all of them. I love Chanel Inimitable. We both like brown mascara.
Cass: I don’t wear it every day. I wear it once a month.
Ali: I feel like when you do photo shoots, you’ve started to.
Cass: I’m transforming, right before your very eyes. It’s true.
Ali: She would never wear lipstick. I never wear lipstick.
Cass: I hate lipstick. But every now and then, Jen Brill, she inspires me—not for myself, but as a subject—she rocks a red lip like no other.
Ali: I’m super obsessed with Tracie Martyn. We both go get facials there. I use the cleanser, and her exfoliator. And because I have oily skin, I use the Lotus Sculpt as a moisturizer in the summer. I also love Tata Harper; we’re big supporters of Tata Harper products. They’re great. They’re natural. She’s awesome. This is new and I’m obsessed with this: Wild Rose Beauty Balm from Neal’s Yard. You can use it as a cleanser or as a mask or as an exfoliator. It comes with this little muslin cloth. It smells good, and it feels really good. Obviously, Bob Recine’s Hair Oil is a staple. I represent Bob—he’s amazing. And we use California Baby on our kids, pretty much exclusively.
Cass: They don’t like to shower.
Ali: Well, Mae, she takes after me. She’ll take like five baths a day. Leo’s like you. And you know what? I love Epicuren. Actually, that is what I use every day. It’s really good.
Cass: I do use Epicuren every day.
Cass: And I use Chanel Sublimage for the eyes. I’m big on eye products because I’m an old lady.
Ali: She’s really big on hydrating face cream. She’s always asking me, even though we don’t have it right now, but you know, Olio Lusso? She loves that.
Cass: Oh, and this stuff for my acne: Sonya Dakar Drying Potion. The best stuff for a zit. It stings.
Ali: We’re both obsessed with Clarisonic. Daniel Martin, a makeup artist that I represent, gave me one for Christmas this year; I’d been wanting one. And then Cass was like, ‘Oh my God, you got that? I want it.’ So, she went and bought one because we didn’t want to share one. Oh and if we don’t talk about this... It’s the one thing we use. It’s my Cow Udders Bag Balm. It’s the only thing that doesn’t chap your lips.
Cass: And there’s an antibiotic in it.
Ali: We’re also both big on eyelash curlers. We had to get her a new one because she would take it when she would leave on photo shoots and then I would be like, ‘Where’s my eyelash curler?’ This is Chanel but I like the Shu Uemura one better.
Cass: The truth is I’m high maintenance.
Ali: She’s not, but she is.
Cass: My hair is like prom in the back. It’s like a mullet; I only have pins holding it together right now. I used to have really long hair, curly, and then my curl kind of pulled out when I got pregnant, and I don’t really like my hair down…but I want my hair long. Do you know what I mean? I want the option.
Ali: She never wears her hair down.
Cass: Like, ever. But I like having long hair so I can braid it and pin it and do, like, unexpected things with my hair. You wouldn’t expect me to have—
Ali: A French twist!
Cass: —an up-do. So it’s like an up-do in the back, like I’m going to homecoming, and then the front is, like, ‘greaser faux-hawk.’ I’ve always had these crazy baby bangs that never grew out, so I just went with it.
Ali: The only hair product I really use is Bumble and bumble Surf Spray; I spray and then air-dry. I hate a blow out. I hate it looking Upper East Side-y.
Cass: She instantly transforms.
Ali: It’s awful!
Cass: It’s true. When she gets a blow out, I’m like…
Ali: I never want a blow out. I haven’t had different hair since high school… and both our kids have that curly blond hair. We used the same donor, so they’re related. Mae is two; I had Mae. Leo’s four—Cass had him first.
Cass: Having him really transformed my relationship with my body in a way that was unexpected. Like, I was really able to identify as a woman, whereas before, I kind of tried to ignore that part. I didn’t get my period until I was 18—there were all these signifiers where you really become a girl, that I was super late in arriving to. I was like a little immature boy. Then, getting pregnant was just a hormonal revolution. I was like, ‘Ohhhh, heyyyy. I’m totally a girl!’ [Laughs] I’m really in touch with it now, which is nice. And as an artist or a photographer, it really helped me. Before I got pregnant, I was never assigned shooting women—my entire portfolio was men, or women who looked like boys. The New Yorker would assign me women, but it was a very studio approach.
Ali: It wasn’t fashion either. It was portraiture.
Cass: And then I shot Daria [Werbowy] for Dossier, and I shot Freja, and it just totally shifted, and now I rarely get asked to photograph men. But, I think that I was really uncomfortable with femininity, just generally. And getting pregnant totally connected me to femininity in a way that I was able to relate to, which was awesome. And now, my approach to shooting women is authentic, you know?
Ali: And that changed you, too. Being able to shoot women changed your identity around shooting fashion. Having people have hair and makeup done—Cass was so anti that at the beginning of her career. She was like, ‘I don’t want it. I just want natural. I don’t even want anyone there. I don’t want anything.’ And now…
Cass: I’m like, ‘Bring it on!’
Ali: [Laughs] It’s funny!
Cass: Bring on the fashion. But I’m always interested in capturing that abandon—the freedom, and the strength, you know, and the sexuality and the sensuality, and the energetic expression… free of posturing. Women in general—as soon as someone starts to posture what it means to be feminine, I’m like, ‘Ahhh. Stop it. It hurts.’ [Laughs] The same goes for men. As soon as a guy puffs up his chest, I’m like, ‘Ah! That’s not real! That’s total bullshit.'”
—as told to ITG
Cass and Ali Bird photographed by Emily Weiss in Brooklyn, New York in April, 2012.