The Head Shot

Camile Henderson (above) Saffron Henderson (below) — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Sometime in the late 80s when I briefly held the job of Director of Photography (a glorified name for Photo Editor) at Vancouver Magazine I was dispatched to look for a young, beautiful woman who was (in the language of the editor) stacked. This woman would share the page with a bald local DJ and the cover was going to promote a Vancouver Playhouse Theatre wine festival (to raise funds).

I made my appointment with the woman in charge at the Vancouver Playhouse. She gave me a pile of 100 glossy 8x10s. I placed them all on the floor and picked two. The woman looked at me with some amazement. “You have selected sisters, and the headshots have been taken by their mother who is not even a photographer.”

Of all those very glossy and mostly professionally taken head shots, these two had somehow stood out. They were Camile and Saffron Henderson. My editor, Mac Parry picked Saffron and she made the cover.

For as long as I was a magazine photographer I avoided the pitfall of the fashion photographer. This city was never big enough for a proper fashion industry. I saw many photographers come and go like shooting stars. Bread and butter for many of them was the head shot. They would take many during the day (they were called cattle calls) charged little (to compete) and made money on sheer volume. I avoided head shots like the plague.

Recently I took some pictures of Seattle baroque cellist Juliana Soltis. After looking at the many pictures I advised her to use the laughing one as her headshot. On a floor of 100 it just might stand out.

Juliana Soltis — Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Technical Information: Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 90mm lens, Kodak Technical Pan Film, 2x3 ft soft box.

Originally published at