I’ve had a handful of strange phone calls over the years but a call that I had last March 16th 2020, just into the first lockdown, has to be one of the strangest not least because the circumstances leading to the call are still something of a mystery. The caller said that they had just bought a cassette from a charity shop in London and that it had Michael Pollard written on it along with a Manchester address. The caller had Googled Michael Pollard and come up with my website, hence the call. I was confused. Back when I was a student I’d lived in two houses that got burgled and so I had a habit of putting stickers with my name and address on lots of my things. I assumed this is what the caller had found. But why ring me? I asked what was on the cassette. The caller then listed four song titles. Now my head was spinning! These were songs I’d written and recorded when I was a photography student back in 1981. They were never released, so why was there a cassette in a charity shop in London? And where had the cassette been for nearly 40 years? I know for certain that I sent two copies to the BBC because co-incidentally I was having a clear out of a cupboard at the time of the phone call and had found a letter from Radio 1’s John Peel and one from BBC session producer Dale Griffin (on behalf of Kid Jensen) thanking me for sending the cassettes. Well, if all this wasn’t strange enough, the caller then tells me he works for a record company and that they would like to release some of my music on vinyl. I said ‘This isn’t a dream is it?’ It seems it wasn’t and I have a 7” single coming out in March 2021. What a year!
As well as photographing actors I’m also very fortunate to get to photograph art and other items related to the arts and the heritage sector. Some of the work involves the photography of specific items ; a painting, textile, ceramic or any other artefact that might be placed in an exhibition or needed for a catalogue or monograph. However, once the exhibitions are installed then I’m also lucky to get to see and photograph the shows for publicity and gallery archives. I’ve posted a few installation shots below from a number of shows in the three months of the year.
Two installation shots from ‘We Are 11’, a wonderful exhibition showcasing items from the collection of the The Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester and curated by children from Stanley Grove Primary Academy.
Two installation shots from ‘ReFrame’, a collaboration between mother and daughter artists Caroline Broadhead and Maisie Broadhead on at Manchester Art Gallery
Two installation shots from William Kentridge’s ‘Thick Time’ showing at The Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester. A wonderful exhibition that takes you from fantastic pulsing and cacophony to the stillness of a library and much more in between!
Four shots from Martin Parr’s ‘Return To Manchester’ at Manchester Art Gallery
A fascinating visual journey from the 1970s to the present. And lovely to meet a fellow Manchester Poly graduate who also nearly got thrown off their arts course. I thought it was just me!
When I’m not photographing actors I’ll be photographing arts and heritage objects and you’ll generally find me in one of my other ‘home from homes’, an art gallery, and there’s always so much to see. Three shots here from ‘Chinternet Ugly’ at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art which is situated in the northern quarter of Manchester.
I’ve posted some images below from a few of the actors’ headshot sessions from the start of 2019 and we’re welcoming in the new year with three images from a hugely enjoyable shoot with Micky Dacks who is rep’d by @_Broad_
If you are an actor you may have many questions you want to ask about headshots and the shoots. I was asked some questions by a student studying at Media City and University of Salford about my approach to photographing actors so below you may find answers to some of your questions…..though I’m sure there may be many more!
1) What top 3 tips would you give to photographers who are trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ headshot?
Understand light and how it can change the shape, mood and character of a face. Create the right atmosphere to allow conversation and creativity to flow. Understand the person you’re photographing and what each shot aims to achieve.
2) Are there any techniques you have learnt that are vital to creating a good photograph?
Not letting the camera become a barrier between you and your subject.
3) How do you prepare customers for a headshot? Is there anything to advise they do prior to the shoot? E.g. The time they should arrive etc
They need to think about who they are as an actor, where they fit in the industry and if they have particular casting strengths. I advise they bring a range of tops from darker tones/colours to lighter/brighter. Changing appearance during a shot can increase an actor’s casting range and age so they need to think about how their clothes can affect these aspects, how a facial hair/clean shaven look for men can drastically change face shape, age etc. and putting hair up if long (men and women) can do the same. Oh….and they should arrive on time and feeling positive!
4) How do you direct your customers whilst taking their headshot? How many photos on average do you take per person?
Most actors are a little unsure in front of a still camera so as well as generally talking throughout the shoot I will direct them in terms of their position to the camera, whether it’s getting the chin up or down a little or turning the head more to camera or just getting them to think of something that brings a little sparkle to the eyes. I’m always encouraging them with positive responses to what they are doing. The number of shots taken varies but I send at least 150 images to view after the shoot.
5) In terms of equipment, is there any specific kit you would recommend? Equally, are there any good quality cameras out there that you know of that would benefit people who are on more of a budget?
It may sound odd coming from someone who has been a photographer all of their professional life but I don’t take much interest in cameras. I know what I need and that’s about it! I stick to the main brands and use good quality prime lenses, not zooms. However you can get away with a relatively inexpensive camera system when starting out but as you progress as a photographer you’ll soon realise the limitations, particularly of cheap lenses. That is where you need to invest your earnings.
6) Is there anything significant you have learnt over the years about headshot photography and working with people?
I only work with actors and I learnt very early on that most actors would prefer not to have their headshots taken so it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about creating the right environment and atmosphere to allow everything to work. That’s probably the most significant thing I’ve learnt how to do.
7) What advice would you give to budding photographers or people who are just starting out?
Be passionate about photography and be daring in how you approach it. Break the rules! Love what you do even if you’re photographing challenging subject matter. Think how you can be creative in any situation and how you can keep improving.
A small selection of headshots from the actors’ sessions in December. First up are a couple of new choices for Sara Bahadori who is represented by North of Watford Actors’ Agency
I’ve seen Harry Chalmers-Morris in a number of plays in the past few years (and yes he is still very young!) so it was really nice to get a chance to chat and take a few actors’ headshots for his portfolio.
As is sometimes the case (well we do live in Britain!) the weather is not always helpful in achieving good headshots, so we have to dodge the wind and rain occasionally and such was the case when Dachi Adamia called by for his first actors’ headshot shoot with me.
And still the weather got worse as Caroline Strong headed off from her home in Scotland to get an updated headshot. It was a few years ago that I last photographed Caroline so it’s always nice to see returning actors’ so we can get a chance to catch up.
The last time I photographed Alexander, Annabelle & Jonathan Montagu I had my feet firmly on the ground. This time……my little stool was needed. Either I’m getting smaller or they’ve got a lot taller!
As we get further into December we have to try and pretend it’s still summer. Putting a brave face on are Clara Marmo who is currently studying Acting at Balackpool and The Fylde College, actor, writer and spoken word performer Jane Campion-Hoye and Amy Scott.
Another actor returning for new headshots was James Archer who is represented by Broad Acting Management . And it was great to work with two current students from Blackpool and The Fylde College Karlie Latham and Kasey Williams.
The last actors’ headshot session of 2018 was a hugely enjoyable shoot with Blake Mckenzie who is represented by RbA Management in Liverpool.
Behind the Scenes; in the studio with Manchester APHP member Michael Pollard
I always say Manchester as I’m not sure everyone knows where Stockport is (I wasn’t until I moved here!) although it is home to the famous Strawberry Recording Studios and the less well known Hat Works Hat Museum!
How long have you worked here?
My daughter was two weeks old when we moved here and she turns 21 this week. Before then I worked in Manchester itself.
What’s great about where you shoot?
Actors tell me that we have a warm, friendly and relaxed atmosphere here which is really nice to know and it helps to settle any nerves and lets conversations flow which, for me, is one of the most important aspects of the shoot.
The spaces I work in are very simple and ordinary. But what is exciting is working within those spaces; collaborating and connecting with the person in front of the camera to create and capture something special that shows the actor’s character and personality.
We have flexible spaces that let me create indoor and outdoor shots all year round, no matter what the weather. I also like to mix things up by using studio backgrounds outdoors (see the gallery opposite).
What’s also great is that everything is to hand. Music is very important to me and so my record collection is always within reach!
Describe your dream studio:
I love photographing both in and out of doors so my outdoor ‘studio’ would be 24 degrees, overcast, with a very gentle southerly breeze and the sound of the sea. Indoors would be what I have now but with a sea view!
A small selection of actors’ headshots here from November. As the days start to get a bit colder and the light fades quickly in the afternoon, we still had plenty of opportunities to get outside during the shoots to get some lovely, bright, natural light shots as well as some taken indoors where we get a chance to warm up too!
First up is Connie O’Leary on her first headshot session and making it look very easy! Connie is represented by Louise Johnston Management.
It was my first shoot too with Melissa Wadsworth. Melissa is an actor at Dick and Lottie which is an independent/profit share theatre company specialising in the work of Alan Ayckbourn.
Actor James Allen also comes under the title of a continuing series of my posts that I call ‘Is it me or are actors getting younger?’! James has also performed with Joel Danziger and is a very assured young actor and is very easy and a lot of fun to work with.
It was lovely to see Janet Marsh back again for some fresh, new headshots. I’ve photographed Janet for some years now and it’s always a real pleasure to welcome her back and get a chance to catch up. Janet is represented by Manchester actors’ agency based Lime Actors Management
It was good to meet and photograph Dave Smith on a day when you could still, just about, get away with a tee-shirt (and denim jacket here!)
And another returning actor was Kai Freeman who also attends acting classes with David Johnson and is represented by Broad Acting Management.
Abi Dyson was also a returning actor with a wonderful new look. Now with a great new haircut that really puts the emphasis on the face.
It was great to meet and photograph Robert Reina for the first time. Into November and the weather is still very mild and the light is bright but cloudy…..so perfect really. And we made the most of the natural light during the shoot. Robert is based in the south but is represented by Nigel Adams at North West Actors so his visit north had two purposes…..to catch up with his agent and to call by here to get some fresh, new headshots to see him in to 2019. You will notice that Robert had a shave during the shoot which is a popular choice for many of the male actors I photograph as it can both change the shape of the face (if the beard is particularly long) and also take a few years off once clean shaven.
As the most northerly, Manchester, based photographer in the Association of Professional Headshot Photographers they asked if I could answer a few questions for another of their regular blogs and I was very happy to oblige.
Manchester Photographer in Focus: 60 seconds with Michael Pollard
My Dad used to shoot cine film on holidays and that got me interested in images and film-making. I got my first camera when I was about 11. I studied photography at Uni but it almost killed the enthusiasm I had. Fortunately, I got into photographing bands and have never looked back.How did you get into shooting headshots specifically?
The drummer in one of the bands I was working with had a friend who was in a play and they needed a headshot for the programme. So with the help of an old blanket for a backdrop and the light from a window I did my first headshot.Where do you shoot?
In and around my house.
How would you define your style?
Honest, natural and simple.
Tell us what you like most about your job?
Well I consider myself very fortunate that I don’t have to do a proper job! Instead I get to meet and work with the most wonderful people, actors! If we can talk about music then that’s great. If not music then there’s a world of topics to discuss….and that’s the key, communication and collaboration. I love it!
And tell us what you like the least?
Not much! Probably my fingers getting cold in the winter months.
Who is your photography hero?
I’ve been inspired by so many photographers and artists over the years. Perhaps Jo Spence, Angus McBean and Keith Arnatt or the artist George Wyllie. I would much rather talk about my musical anti-hero Mark E Smith!
What track is most likely to be playing in your studio, or on your iPod?
If I’m not shooting then it’s got to be The Fall but when I’m in the company of my actors then I treat them to a lovely mix-tape of northern indie!
Jaffa Cake or Digestive?
Wine or Beer?
My Dad used to brew his own beer and would simmer a bag of hops on the kitchen stove for some hours. That wonderful aroma has shaped the rest of my life.
Cats or Dogs?
I had a dog when I was in my early teens and we have cats now. They are slightly dysfunctional but still I love having pets. I would like to have a dog again…..but we’ll see.
As a member of The Association of Professional Headshot Photographers I was asked to write a short piece about a particular actor’s image that I’d taken. Not an easy task choosing just one as I found out!
What a Shot – Creating the Perfect Atmosphere with Michael Pollard
This was Alex Easton’s very first headshot session. We communicated via email beforehand and she asked for advice about how to prepare and what to bring. When she arrived it was clear that not only was she very easy to talk to but she had thought carefully about what to bring and was very positive about the session. We worked out a number of looks and changes before the shoot started and the purpose of this particular shot was to pitch Alex as young and upbeat…..something that came very naturally to her! And that’s why I like it. It feels honest and naturally exuberant. The only deceit is that we were pretending it was a glorious summer’s day when in fact it was a bit on the chilly side!
Where shot: Outside my house.
When shot: 29 September 2018
How shot: With natural light, an umbrella and lots of chatting and laughing.
What camera: One with a decent prime lens.
It was lovely to meet and photograph actor Chris Baxendale for the first time. At this time of the year you become aware of the days shortening so it’s good to make the most of the natural light while we still have some! And it was good light with a little bit of sunshine in the background adding a bit of sparkle to the shots. Chris is represented by Manchester actors’ agency Urban Talent
And it was a familiar face that returned for a new shoot to get some fresh, new headshots. Callum Arnott is always a joy to work with and we have a lot to catch up on during the shoot. Callum is rocking the denim look here! Callum is represented by Nigel Adams at actors’ agency North West Actors
Callum was followed by yet another new face, to me at least. It was a hugely enjoyable shoot with Ailsa Roanne and I do believe we talked about music…..funny that!
Ending the month of October was the return of Caroline Strong, making the journey down from her home in Scotland. It was lovely seeing Caroline again and getting a chance to catch up. Like many of the shoots, we talked and laughed a lot and somewhere in between we managed to get some headshots taken!
Another chance to have a catch up, this time with actor Chloé Sweetman who returned to get some fresh, new headshots and to make the most of the good weather with plenty of natural light shots bringing out the blue of the eyes……oh and we also did a few studio headshots too!
It’s always good to welcome back Liverpool actor John May. We always manage to cover so many topics during our conversations and some where in between the chat we also manage to get some headshots done! John is represented by Elaine Murphy Associates.
Getting some fresh, new headshots for actor Emile Miriam and a chance to catch up…..oh, and did we talk about music?…….yes I think we probably did! Emilie is represented by Toni Collard at TCA Management.
All actors’ headshot sessions vary. No two actors are alike. Some shoots are very open and more about the actor and their playing age, so pushing the limits of that age range are sometimes the key focus of the shoot. With actor Susan Hewitt we wanted some shots that were very simple in approach and expressed her own personality and some where she explored more character ‘types’ that she new could potentially get her work. Just two of the shots here from a varied shoot showing some of the contrast in personality, type and mood.
It’s always lovely to see actors returning for a new shoot. Not only is it an opportunity to get some fresh new headshots but it’s also a chance to catch up and see what’s been going on in each other’s lives. And there’s always plenty to talk about! Josie is represented by Nigel Adams at North West Actors.
OK, so apart from photographing art the only people I normally photograph are actors. But on this day I made an exception! This is the first shot taken from a hugely enjoyable shoot with Jordan Alexander who is a musical director, pianist and conductor. Jordan is also currently studying at LIPA in Liverpool.
Getting a little bit chilly but pretending it’s a glorious summer’s day!……with actor Alex Easton who is represented by Red 13 Management in Manchester.
So lovely to meet up with
@TheRailtownBs at Home in Manchester 30 odd years since I last photographed them! Terrific talk from Mark Kermode and a wonderfully exuberant set from the Bottlers. Thanks to Mark, Matt, Stephen, Alison, Olly and the staff at Home.
One lunchtime at Edinburgh Fringe we were front row in a pub for a free show by the wonderful Phill Jupitus.
At the end of a song he threw his plectrum, apparently over our heads, into the audience.
On returning home I unpacked my rucksack & at the bottom found…….PJ’s plectrum!
Thanks to John Branwell for a hugely enjoyable shoot!
He is soon to be seen on the big screen in Mike Leigh’s forthcoming film Peterloo.
Great to meet and photograph headshots for actor Andrew Wong – and still the Manchester weather is being kind to us… just about!
Is it just me or are actors getting younger!
Actor headshots from new shoots with young talents Jace & Jax Haymer-Bates, Anthony Dixon and Dylan Smith.
Here’s a shot from an amazing gig I attended and photographed at The White Hotel in Salford in May, with Damo Suzuki and Imperial Wax.
An extraordinary experience in an extraordinary venue!
#thewhitehotel @fallnews @TheFallDaily @ChurchOfTheFall #manchester #music