The Hetty Shoot

Several months ago I watched the BBC drama “The Casual Vacancy” on television. Hetty Baynes Russell, who played one of the characters, stood out for me as an interesting photographic subject. After a few emails I met up with Hetty for a coffee in Fulham, London, where we discussed the possibility of arranging a photoshoot. Hetty was married to British film director Ken Russell, with whom she had one child, Rex, who is now forging his own career in the film business.

After discussing a number of possibilities, we arranged the shoot in Winchester, assisted by the talented make up artist Rachael Kent. The venue for the shoot was a very classy boutique B&B called Hannah’s which opened up last year on my street. I met Hetty off the London train at 11.00 am and we met Rachael at my house shortly after. After much coffee and chatting the makeup and hair was attended to and the clothes were selected for the shoot. 

Hannah’s venue offered a bewildering choice of options for a location photographer, giving an upmarket feel to the images with lots of interesting natural light. Each of the 3 bedrooms featured high ceilings, large beds, huge windows and a high mezzanine space with roll-top baths. Compared to the sterile and limited environment of most photographic studios, a great location like this is a gold mine for a portrait photographer. The images we made together took around 3 hours to complete. Hetty was a complete delight to work with, her very open and upbeat personality bringing so much to these pictures. She brought along some wonderful costumes too, including one made by John Byrne for a past performance.

The entire shoot was a ‘mirror-free zone’ using the Olympus OMD EM1 and the Sony A7S with my Leica 50mm Summilux lens along with a Cactus flash and Trigger and a simple reflector disk. I also used a Damian McGillicudy 18” softbox on my flash which was planted on a small light stand. The EM1 was used for both flash and available light, and the A7S/50Lux was used only with natural light. The last shot in this set was made in my studio with the Westcott TD6 Spiderlight and a 4x3 ft softbox

So all in all, a nice simple set up. Wonderful make up and hair, a stunning venue, and most importantly a beautiful and versatile subject! It really doesn’t get much better than this for me. I’m sure I will be using Hannah’s venue again for forthcoming shoots and I do hope to include other British actresses in my portfolio in the near future.

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