In 2018 I began studying a master’s degree in ‘Photography: History, Theory and Practice’ at the University of Sussex, I wanted to know what it was that kept me so enthralled and connected to photography regardless of other influences in my life. I left university not only with a distinction but with the understanding that photography can function on many, many different levels for better or for worse, it can be a tool for good or a tool of shock or misuse, it’s an extremely complicated and oversaturated medium. I began taking photos for various activist groups both in Brighton and London, and I continue to do so, using my skills as a tool for the sharing of knowledge and historic documentary. Blended with this the answer to my initial question became very clear, I wanted to share my love of photography in the best way possible, both documenting protests and in a return to the arena where I began.
Working with actors has always been such a joy for me, and having a good headshot taken and a good experience whilst taking it can open up so much for an actor, looking back at the headshot of myself taken by Charlie Waite, I am so grateful. A headshot is about self-esteem, value, interest, job opportunities, all rolled into a single capture. And that’s the job of a good headshot photographer, its a skill I have been practicing for many years. I am now part of the Peter Hurley Headshot Crew which supports the growth and focus of headshot photographers across the globe, based in New York, Peter Hurley has developed a simple lighting set up using LED (daylight) lights, no flash in the face! This is the method I now use and the light is gorgeous and easy to work with.
Thank you for reading this little personal history, I hope to see you in the studio very soon!
My first headshot was taken by the amazing photographer Charlie Waite (now a renowned landscape photographer), it is a simple, clean, head and shoulders, it looked like me and when I walked into a casting office they saw the same person in life as they had seen on the headshot. This is essential. Oh how I loved the days of black and white headshots! This headshot put me into a whole new league of casting and interest. It led to me being cast in the 1985 movie “Mona Lisa” playing a small but significant role opposite Bob Hoskins. I then went on to work with Bob on another movie “A Prayer For The Dying” and of course had my camera on hand taking snaps of him, Mickey Rourke and the crew.
As my acting career picked up, I became more and more invested in photography, in front of the camera I was someone else, but behind the camera I was myself, and the more faces I photographed the more I fell in love with being behind the lens. In the mid 1990’s I worked on various films, TV shows, and several commercials, not as an actor but as a set photographer, I learnt so much working as part of the crew and loved every minute of it. It’s easy to think that our lives are mapped out when we find success in one direction but for me, there was a constant duality. Once I had children, I stepped back from a full-time career in both fields, but photography never left me, I continued with headshots as a part time occupation .
How did I go from being an actress to a photographer?
I thought it might be fun to share some of my history with everyone. It would be easy to say that I became an actor before I became a photographer, but looking back I realise that photography was always by my side, I actually bought my first camera from a second-hand camera shop at the age of 16 having just decided that acting was my future. Throughout my acting career, photography was always synchronised into my life. Once my acting career took off, I was never seen on set without a camera, and very often I used a Polaroid camera to capture my fellow actors, the crew, and the energy of being part of the acting world. I found many of my old photographs stuck in an old tattered scrap book and others in little pocket albums but many have been lost, and so the images I found are remnants and they are jumbled up, but they are also testaments to moments of photographic exploration and dedication.
The first album I found whilst rummaging through my boxes is a little polaroid booklet from 1987. I was the lead actor in Ken Russell’s “The Rainbow”, I appear in most scenes which takes a huge amount of focus, and yet my polaroid camera was round my neck every minute of the day until I heard the cue ‘ready to shoot’! I have included a few snaps of myself on set taken with my camera by others, but if I'm not in the shot then the image was taken by me.
In 1987 I also worked on a movie called “Pack Of Lies” with the wonderful Terri Garr and Ellen Burstyn. I took pics and really enjoyed being behind the camera! It was at this time that I bought my first Nikon camera and began shooting with more of an eye towards the vision of what I wanted in the image as opposed to just taking snaps.
Before working on “The Rainbow”, I worked with Ken Russel and Amanda Donahue on the film “Lair of The White Worm”, Ken offered me the part ten minutes after our first meeting, this was way before cell phones and instead of going straight home I went to my agents office near Oxford Circus, to tell her how the interview went and by the time I got there, she had already received the news from Ken that I had the part. I loved working with Ken, he was a big teddy bear and very protective and loyal to the people he worked with. He was also outrageous and loud and could come across as very intimidating for some people. But I thought he was wonderful, and at that time I also got the opportunity to work alongside Hugh Grant, Amanda Donohue (our first film together), Peter Capaldi, and Catherine Oxenberg. It’s a crazy movie and it was so much fun to make!