Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Bernice Summerfield Did My Headshots

Seriously. Lisa Bowerman – aka Doctor Who‘s Bernice Summerfield – is a talented portrait photographer, specialising in actors’ headshots. You’ll find numerous examples of her work in the Spotlight directory of performers. She works with traditional film negative and natural light, moving to digital for delivery.

Photo credit: Lisa Bowerman

Okay, so Pitt and Clooney have nothing to worry about. But I love the way she takes honest shots with no flattery or fakery. And technically she’s so good that you can zoom in to my eyeball at the highest resolution and see her with the camera reflected there.

For actors it’s important to show who you are, not what skilful studio lighting could make you look like fifteen years ago. Having been on the other side of the audition table to hear actors read, I can say that sending in a misleading photo does no one any good at all. Rather than give you a head start, it suggests insecurity and, at worst, delusion.

Writers’ headshots are a whole other field of study.

We need to have them but, being writers, we don’t want to pay for them. Sometimes your publisher will commission some publicity stills but that doesn’t always work out – Hodder & Stoughton once sent me to a man who specialised in photographing fruit for Marks & Spencer. Maybe they chose him because of the “&”. I don’t know what fruit he had in mind when he studied me – maybe Zombie Cucumber. We took the shots in his attic, with me lurking behind a wormy pillar or looking out around a peeling chimney wall. The result: I looked like a ghoul in the fourth stage of something terminal.

I fared no better when I decided to splash out on some shots of my own. I picked a local wedding photographer with a sideline in industrial work – he should have been good, he had a studio and everything. I asked for no diffusion but he thought he knew better. The results were well nigh unusable – not sharp enough for good reproduction and I looked like one of those primped 80s guys in Movies4Men softcore porn.

Don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about.

My first professional headshot was for the jacket of Valley of Lights. I forget who put me onto him, but the photographer was Arthur Waite of Arthur Waite Publicity, a one-man operation in a poky studio behind Salford Cathedral just down the road from Granada TV. Arthur looked a little bit like Paul Daniels, as I recall… there was an electric fire warming the studio and a Sheltie lying on a dog bed in the corner. Arthur specialised in photographing Variety acts and advertising copy for The Stage. His portfolio included Ken Dodd, Tom O’Connor, and International Cabaret Stars Margo and Trevor.

I told him what I did and what I needed. He’d never had a writer for a client before. He thought it over then gave me the lighting he used for magicians, which I rather liked the idea of. I liked the work he did, as well.

Photo credit: Arthur Waite Publicity

Hey. I’ve not changed that much. Maybe I could get away with using this one…

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One response to “Bernice Summerfield Did My Headshots”

  1. As someone who's been a big fan of your work from way back and as someone who is a commercial photographer and graphic designer I would love to shoot you (photographically) just for the thrill of it. Although I'm based in Scotland, I get back to home town Hull a couple of times a year and we could meet up? The below link might give you an idea of my work http://www.martinparkerphotography.co.uk/p959855184 I've even got a location from one of your books in mind; so if you fancy it let me know?