Interview with photographer and burlesque model Hetty Heartache.
What's your background in photography?
I have never studied photography, although I did spend 2 years at Edinburgh College of Art in the Tapestry Department. I decided it wasn't for me and left last spring and have been perusing my photography work since then.
What was your first camera like and what was the first photo you ever took?
I took my first ever photograph at Disney Land in Paris when my parents took me for my 7th birthday, whilst we were on holiday in France. I think my parents bought me a automatic 35mm camera soon after that and I still have that camera to this day, although I no longer use it.
Have you always loved photography?
I loved snapping away as a child, I remember constantly annoying my parents in to developing my films for me. I gave it up for a while in my early teens when my camera broke. I suppose, I never saw it as something I could do when I grew up. My parents have always wanted me to have a "proper" job so I guess that's why I ended up doing something creative!
How did you get involved with gig photography?
I started doing music photography properly in my mid-teens, when I started going to see bands with my friends, and it just went on from there. I went from 35mm film, to a digital compact, then a prosumer camera and then onto my beloved 20D, which is getting replaced with a 5D MKII soon.
I won a competition for T-Break for my music photography in 2005 and got to shoot at T in the Park, so at that point I realized it was something I was good at.
Which bands have you shot?
I've shot most of the well known UK chart bands: The Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, and The Futureheads etc. My faves are always the most challenging bandsm where the singer runs about on stage or I'm stuck in the middle of the crowd. For example, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as it's near impossible to follow Karen O as she runs about the stage. Babyshambles and The Horrors as well, as they were both in really small venures and I was getting pushed against the stage in each venue. I was so scared I'd get crushed to death at Babyshambles and ended up with really bad bruising all over my legs.
What goes through your mind when you're taking photos at gigs like this?
With bands its usually trying to run around and follow the singer, or watching the lighting to see when it's best, or worrying if it's too dark or red. Also, trying to avoid any flying pints of beer and hoping I can get a good shot, as we're usually only allowed to shoot for the first 3 songs with no flash. It's a real buzz when photographing at a large gig, in the pit, with the crowd behind me!
How did you get involved with burlesque photography?
As a child, growing up, I was pretty close to my gran and I was drawn into the glamour of the 1950's. As I got older I became really interested in vintage fashion, pin-up girls and eventually, burlesque. My photography just seemed to go down the route of burlesque and pin-up images as I became more and more interested in it!
How does shooting burlesque compare to bands?
Photographing performers on the stage is really similar to shooting bands and musicians. The stage lighting and lighting levels are the same and I use the same kind of techniques for shooting both. Trying to photograph performers can be as challenging as a member of a band running about on stage, although obviously the burlesque performers are a lot more glamorous!
You also do studio shoots with the girls. What goes in to putting one of these together?
Working in a studio is so much more challenging than anything else. There's less room for error with lighting and if you are in a studio there is less to play off, than when shooting in bars or clubs. It's just a model and a backdrop, so I need to do a lot of creative direction. I usually do a lot of research into old pin-up images for poses and print things out to take along with me. Also, props help a lot.
Do you have any tricks for making models comfortable and relaxed?
I just try and make my shoots as fun and relaxed as possible. If I know the models pretty well, like Miss Zara Ann & Miss Frankii Wilde, we just end up messing about and it's far from serious. I always have music on in the background to help models relax. I think, without the music and the madness, my shoots would be really dull, hahaha!
Which do you like to shoot best (stage, studio etc.)?
I think I like shooting in the studio or on location better. I like being able to plan every detail of a shoot before - like the model, location, outfits, props, poses etc. On the other hand I like the excitement of shooting events, as you never know what kind of shots you are going to come out with in the end. Most of my favourite shots are my burlesque performance ones or unplanned shoots that end up happening with models, haha.
How much editing do you do on your photography afterwards?
With live music and event work, I rarely do any post production work. With anything low key or with a high contrast between light and dark, be it events or location portraits, the lighting tends to be more forgiving so less editing is needed. I tend to do the most work on high key portraits or studio work. Sometime I can spend up to 15 mins per picture. I'm such a perfectionist! I only really edit what I need to, as I want the natural beauty of my models to shine through.
I use Photoshop CS2 or 3 to edit my work. I've pretty much self-taught myself the skills in post editing. I've learn a lot online and from friends of mine, who are also photographers.
Do you have any tips for someone wanting to start out with photography?
The best thing to do is keep working hard at what you do and be committed to your work. Keep shooting and shooting and be really critical of your work. Look at the work of other photographers, who's work you admire. I find it really hard shooting at the moment as I have a day job, but I know that in the end, my hard work will pay off!
You perform burlesque yourself now, how did that come about?
I took up burlesque before I started photographing it. I started taking classes through the Academy of Burlesque and Cabaret at the start of 2006, and the first performance pictures I took of Missy Malone were taken at the first ever show we did as part of that class. It was shot at the stunning Panopticon Music Hall, where Stan Laurel and Jack Buchanan also made their debuts.
Did you find it scary at the start?
I was so nervous the first time I performed, I was totally shaking. I think that I've just overcome it by getting more and more experience performing.
How do you prepare for a show?
I take a lot of inspiration from old Hollywood, film noir or classic burlesque. I get a lot of inspiration from books with pictures of old burlesque stars, or old burlesque videos on youtube, but I like to reinvent things and make them more "me". If not, I'll come with a theme or I'll base something on part of a costume. It can be a colour, a movement or emotion that I want to portray - a similar way to how I plan my photo shoots. A lot of my inspiration comes from the same places, so I guess a lot of it is connected. I'm about to start working on a Queen of Hearts act, based from my stage name "Hettie Heartache", so it's going to be pretty dark and twisted, far away from my normal cheesecake 50's pin-up style of acts.
Where do you get your outfits from?
I like to buy simple corsets or underwear and customize things. For example, for my fan dance act, I have a basic peach corset from What Katie Did and I've customized it with about around 100 rhinestones and 250 Swarovski crystals. I'm a bit of a magpie, the sparklier the better, hahaha!
Finally, what's next for you?
At the moment, I'm making plans to turn my garage into a studio, which should hopefully be finished by the spring. I've also recently found a fantastic abandoned mansion house, through a photographer friend, and once we're through the horrible Scottish winter, I'm gonna start working on some darker, more fetish themed projects and ideas. So keep your eyes peeled!
Tips for pin-up modeling!
1. It's all about the face
2. Practice that posing
3. Bring along some props
4. Perfect your hair and make-up
5. Have fun!
You can see more or Loraine's photography on her flickr or add Hetty Heartache as a friend on myspace. (Photographs of Loraine taken by Greame Findlay, Jannica Honey, Paul Wright & ArtPunk Photography)