I'm wondering what the best way to insert a photo of someone "through" the center of a vector shape would be in Illustrator CC. I've done this in the past through a variety of shape building techniques, but the gradient I'm using this time is throwing me off.
Essentially, I have cropped photos of both people pictured, and I'd like their below-the-waist portion to remain obscured, but I'd like their heads to still carry over the top portion of the shapes (as the man on the left's head is.) I've tried shape building, but then the gradient won't carry fluidly over through each new shape. So essentially, what is the most effective technique for layering elements like this while still keeping the gradient consistent?