From Hair to Eternity

By Ron Donoho / Photos by Rob Hammer

When Rob Hammer was four or five years old, his dad took him to an old-fashioned barbershop. He recalls the guys-only safe zone as a cool place, where men could be men and say anything without worrying about hurting anyone else's feelings.

Today, Hammer is a 32-year-old commercial photographer who's shot firefighters, Olympic athletes and the former San Diego mayor (flipping the bird!) for the pages of PacificSD. His recent travels for work have taken him from New York to Arizona to Massachusetts and, of late, Pacific Beach, where he's always sought out good barbershops.

"These old shops are an amazing piece of America, but they're slowly going away," he says. "They should be properly documented before they're all gone."

Hammer's goal is to visit all of the contiguous 48 United States, taking photographs of barbers and their shops along the way and then publishing his work. He also wants to create a documentary of the experience...if he can drum up enough funding.

"I was really moved to make a book after I met a barber in Spanish Harlem in New York," Hammer says. "He'd been in this shop for 62 years, and this was his life. But his landlord was tripling the rent. And that was it."

A shot at funding on Kickstarter.com failed to raise the $45,000 Hammer needed to get the book done, but the effort renewed his desire to complete the project.

"I'm still motivated - I'm more passionate about it than ever," he says.

Now, Hammer plans to drive from San Diego to New York and back, shooting more barbershops and hoping new sources of funding emerge during his journey.

"The book will get done," he says. "We'll see about the documentary, but this book is going to happen."

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