Charlie Carter is an accomplished photographer based in London. I had the good fortune of meeting her at a Surviving Actors event earlier this year. She is a force of nature: straight-talking, funny and likeable in equal portions. Charlie has a catalogue of work that includes a plethora of well-known faces as well as a few of Hollywood’s finest.
A great headshot photographer is hard to find and then there’s Charlie…
Lyneah: What does your perfect day look and sound like?
Charlie: Can I miss this one out please! It’d start with a lie in which hasn’t happened for 10 years.
L: I understand you were an actor in another life, what was it that first drew you to photography?
C: I hated being photographed. I hated a stranger making a judgement over who I was based purely on what I looked like, not bothering to find out about who I was or the actor I was. In those days, it really was sit down, click-click-click and bugger off. People didn’t talk to you and I usually looked dull, sometimes pretty and dull but always dull and I was a character actor so dull is particularly unhelpful. I decided to design a session that was actor-friendly and appropriate for those of us who hated being photographed and really struggled in sessions.
L: What do you think are the particular challenges of working in a very male dominated industry? How do you handle sexism when it comes up?
C: It doesn’t come up [for me]. Often people will come to me because they want a female photographer. I really only started meeting other headshot photographers when I joined the APHP – a lovely group of people – all very different, working in their own unique way who happen to be excellent photographers. I remember being surprised how male dominated it was! When I started, the names were mainly female – Jenny Potter, Bee Holm, Fatimah Namdar, Catherine Shakespeare Lane.
I LOVE my job. I love actors. I love showing people that they are beautiful and that other people can see it
L: What inspires and motivates you?
C: Kindness. I think people are extraordinary – this human experience is often really pretty challenging and I am inspired by people overcoming adversity in whatever form that might take. What might be nothing to one person could be a mountain to someone else. Climbing your own personal mountain inspires me. And I’m motivated by change and possibility.
L: What do you love most about your job?
C: I LOVE my job. I love actors. I love showing people that they are beautiful and that other people can see it. That what they think only they can see, occasionally in the bathroom mirror on a good day, is actually visible by other people too, that they are beautiful. I think everyone is when they just put their ‘stuff’ down for a few minutes (actually just for the odd 1/160 of a second) – and sometimes that is very hard. And I love the emails and letters telling me that finally they are being seen by casting directors who previously wouldn’t get them in and that things are shifting. I think having your headshots done is more than about headshots. It can bring things up which can be uncomfortable but I do very long sessions so we have time to go there and then go beyond. I also love working with older people too and showing them that they aren’t invisible.
Bring ironed clothes. Get a good haircut that really suits you and if it doesn’t reschedule. Treat your session like a general audition at the National Theatre and prepare in the same way – but with more clothes
L: What advice could you give to actors just starting out and how could they get the best out of a session with you?
C: I think having an idea of your casting is useful – what you’re good at and what you want people to think when they look at your photo. Personally I’m not a fan of limiting your casting to professions but I think that there is usually a thread that links your casting together.
It can be very useful when you identify that thread. For example recently a young actor, during his session, realised his thread was that he played people who made bad choices – that featured in every part he had been cast in, and with that thread the possibilities are endless. If you don’t know your casting, ask people but be clear that everyone has an opinion so think about if that opinion resonates or not. And you don’t HAVE to know but think about it. Bring ironed clothes. Get a good haircut that really suits you and if it doesn’t reschedule. Treat your session like a general audition at the National Theatre and prepare in the same way – but with more clothes.
L: Which photographers influence you and why?
C: So many – Eve Arnold, Jane Bown, Annie Leibowitz, David Bailey, Terence Donovan, Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa – all the Magnum photographers really. I like images that are as captivating today as they were the day they were taken, classic photographs that hold your gaze and that you see something new in each time you look at them, no matter how simple.
L: When you manage to get time to yourself how do you unwind?
C: Doesn’t really happen – I have children!
L: If you were world leader for the day what would you change?
C: I’d get rid of Trump for a start and have a second vote for Brexit based on accurate data. Racism, sexism, homophobia, equality in general -don’t know what the solution is but it would be out there. Perhaps Act For Change but on a worldwide across the board scale rather than just in the performing arts/media. Fill empty hotel rooms with homeless people so that they got comfy beds and a hot bath. Make it illegal for any food establishment to trash food but mandatory to give it people in need. Nuclear weapons of course would have to go…it’d be a long day.
When you are doing anything creative, you have no idea of the outcome so don’t try and limit yourself
L: And lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
C: Perfectionism causes Chaos. Also, when you are doing anything creative, you have no idea of the outcome so don’t try and limit yourself but be open. There are so many more possibilities than you can imagine – you never know what can or might happen and sometimes it does.