The Other Boleyn Girl... or Arabella goes back in time.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had date with a school history lesson that required just a little bit more from her devoted parental units than the obligatory Google search followed by a quick kiss on the cheek at the school gates.

Enter Arabella and her delightful (and bestowed of exquisite taste and much patience) Mother Nicola. It was while I was admiring Nicola’s extraordinary beautiful home ( Mum is an art dealer and her home gets the benefit of some truly stunning works of art while they are between buyers) that I caught sight of a simple but beautiful black headdress adorned with gold lace and pearls. Upon further enquiry I discovered that this fine piece of handicraft had sprung into life to accompany Arabella to school on her quest to be her Bath’s answer to that legend of Tudor history and unfortunate head/body separation notoriety.. Anne Boleyn.

School projects are getting REALLY challenging these days!

School projects are getting REALLY challenging these days!

PING…. Really?? .. not now brain!

Ahh… light bulb moments, they have a habit of arriving at the most inconvenient times, like when you are relaxing with a glass of wine and good company and expect to focus on nothing more taxing than if the Resident’s Association dinner will up to snuff this year, that being our ultimate destination if memory serves me correctly. Light bulb moments being no respecters of such trivialities I could feel the familiar sensation of cogs slowly starting to crank into gear and in a manner much akin to the tiny characters' in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic.. small images started to be painted on a internal canvas and shipped up to my somewhat unwilling subconscious. “ here we go..pop the headdress on the kid, add some Tudor clobber (clothes for my US friends) stick her in front of that fancy new hand painted backdrop he’s just bought and with a bit of careful positioning of his equally new fancy soft box thingy it’s Anne Boleyn the teen years… should look something like ….. hang on! hang on!…. yup.. here we go… Arabella Boleyn… BINGO!.. now get to work matey’..

The Elves In my brain hard at work freaking me out when I least expect it..

The Elves In my brain hard at work freaking me out when I least expect it..

I’d like to pretend that the aforementioned description of the workings of my subconscious mind were not at all like I’ve described but sadly.. it’d be a lie.

So…. here we go AGAIN.. yet another confused parent to try to persuade that for some reason I have a really strong gut feeling that their darling daughter would make a cracking model type thingy.. Fortunately I generally only have to focus my efforts on people who have at least made it to double digits and who are in some way or other demonstrating a fairly clear message to the world that fashion is their thang and all I have to do is confirm that in my professional opinion I concur..hand them my business card and wait for the inevitable Spanish Inquisition from their parental units. Handily having an actual career/professional track record/website/ a case history of actually helping get said little treasures an actual model agency signing and 14 seasons at London Fashion Week helps to distinguish yours truly from the garden variety axe murderer but.. you get the picture…

Honest Mrs.. I’m completely legit… yours truly at London Fashion Week dead centre.

Honest Mrs.. I’m completely legit… yours truly at London Fashion Week dead centre.

In this case parental unit Nicola was more puzzled than concerned for her daughter’s long term life expectancy when I contacted her a few days later to float the idea and as an admirer of my work happily agreed to my suggestion that we turn Arabella’s school history class debut into to something longer lasting than a hurried iPhone pic but… I could tell that privately she did think I was a little bonkers.

Parental approval obtained it was time to do what I usually do at this point…


Kevin Spacey before he sadly sabotaged his rather brilliant career recounted on a chat show a story about when he persuaded actor and all round legend Peter O’Toole to take part in a fundraising performance at London’s Old Vic Theatre when he was its creative director. Apparently Spacey was walking down the backstage corridor just before curtain up when suddenly he heard a familiar voice bellowing out the following retort through a dressing room door..

“SPACEY!!!! what the F***** have you got me into this time?!!!”

This one’s for Charles or CB3 as we like to call him.

This one’s for Charles or CB3 as we like to call him.

You should know that exact phrase is bandied back and forth between me, my collaborators ( and my subconscious) on just about about every shoot I ever do..

It’s all very well spotting the potential of Anne Boleyn’s mini me doppelganger but quite another to work out how to make an admittedly very fine featured young lady and a single headdress into a portrait worthy of not just a Tudor Queen but worthy of a mother who specialises in C17th portraiture and thus knows a thing or three about what makes a good picture. so…

No pressure then??…

Okay Aitken thanks for the extensive background detail but tell us about the picture!..

OK here it comes.

After much agonizing and searching of Google for Tudor girl’s dresses and all forms of Queen like fancy dress in general for many days ( read that browser history and weep!) I came to the alarming conclusion that they were all rubbish! I even contacted my go to source of all things film and fancy dress Rusette Auton at the much beloved Bath Theatrical Costume Hire but despite her valiantly searching through her enormous collection of dresses and outfits she had nothing small enough to fit Arabella.

Kids eh?? bloody over achievers!… however… not quite the look I was aiming for.

Kids eh?? bloody over achievers!… however… not quite the look I was aiming for.

Really starting to panic now…

However I should have known that as Arabella’s Annie B debut had to go ahead with or without The Royal Crescent’s answer to Tim Walker/Annie Liebowitz / some bloke who spots people in Waitrose and talks them into becoming a model, that her mum would have found her a perfectly respectable dress online and succeeded where I failed. Seems when it comes to my photography I’m girly but not quite girly enough, probably a good thing..

Nuff said…

Nuff said…

The last part of the puzzle and one that I yet again agonized over was the all important Anne Boleyn “ B” necklace. Another bout of Googling revealed that the interweb is awash with such trinkets but most of them would be unlikely to last long enough for Arabella to get into character let alone last through the shoot. Not having a small fortune to expend on a more robust version I finally settled on one that looked like it just might do the job.

B for Boleyn or beheading if your’e less charitable…

B for Boleyn or beheading if your’e less charitable…

Fast forward ( well.. not on this blog obviously) and we finally arrive at the shoot day. As ever my beloved little monster/son and all round good sort Jamie was my lighting stand in and despite looking nothing like she of the aforementioned head/body separation incident ( thank Gawd.. as that could make for a challenging path through secondary school?!) I was fairly confident I had a backdrop/lighting scenario that would work.

I had decided to buy some roses for the shoot and I think one of us had decided to use an old looking book of mine for Arabella to hold as well. Amusingly with us being neighbours Arabella arrived fully Queened up and after she donned the necklace the transformation was complete and uncanny it was too. Being a parental unit myself I have the advantage that coupled with my refusal to grow up in anything even resembling an appropriate manner ( growing old is compulsory.. growing up is optional as the bumper sticker rightly says) I’m more than happy to play the court jester in order to get the young-uns to feel at ease and get the laughter flowing. Any number of inappropriate references to parting Arabella’s slender neck from her shoulders with an imaginary sword seemed to do the trick and Bath’s answer to the second most famous Tudor Royal was working the shoot like a natural in no time.

Getting kids to feel at ease and chuckling away isn’t that hard if you genuinely like them and don’t mind sending yourself up a fair bit.. it’s getting them to turn on the serious looks that can be the hard part , but in this case I achieved it with a chance phrase that is now repeated in Arabella’s household whenever I go to visit..

“ Arabella?… Queen Of The World!”…

Ta Da !!

And with that simple phrase, a perfectly positioned rose and a look that could stop time and in the very last shot of the day ( I kid you not) Arabella Boleyn absolutely nailed it.

The next day after a few tweaks to make it look suitably Tudor portrait-esque,..nothing much ..just a few colour edits and a tiny bit of film grain added to make it look a little more like a painting I decided to pop to a well known high street photo retailer, as being a Sunday my usual printer was closed. I was a tad anxious about going “ high street” but I really wanted to pop into Arabella’s Mum and Dad’s and surprise them with a large A2 print.

I have to say, said high st chain did an amazing job and when I pulled it out of its envelope at a restaurant with my son and some friends and parents prior to presenting to Arabella’s Mum and Dad the reaction was exactly what I’d hoped for. An hour or so later Jamie and I were in Arabella’s kitchen and it was time for the big reveal.. The best thing I can say apart from the fact that our little Anne Boleyn seemed to genuinely love it is that Nicola paid me the best compliment a few days later when she told me “ I just can’t stop looking at it!” Dad was suitably amazed as was big sister who both asked the same question “ how on earth did you get Arabella to do that look?”

It’s simple I replied you just have to say the magic words…

“ Arabella?… Queen Of The World!”

I hope you like it and if you have a little Anne or Henry ( well maybe not THAT Henry) waiting to be immortalized in portrait form or simply feel it’s time for you and or your better half to show the world your best side just say the magic words “ how do I book a session” and I’ll be happy help!


Arabella knocks it outta the park ( well…Crescent in this case but you get the idea)

Arabella knocks it outta the park ( well…Crescent in this case but you get the idea)

The Portrait Professional Goes Live

Season's Greetings..

Welcome to the first of many blogs about the world of photography, fashion, music and everything in between.

I'm delighted to be launching a new website aimed at people who are looking for a great head shot for their Spotlight profile, their Social Media profile, or for people who have always wanted a portrait that they can be proud of and one that goes just that bit further than the average picture.

I'm Marc Aitken and I have had a passion for photography ever since I was in my late teens. I was fortunate enough to come under the wing of an extremely talented film director who became the chief technician at an arts centre at which I worked. He had worked in all manner of roles within the film industry but he had worked with Enfant Terrible Ken Russel, he of Tommy and The Music Lovers fame and that was good enough for me. He taught me many things about photography (and life come to that) during the time he was my boss, but possibly the greatest lesson he taught me was in response to yet another of my weekly questions about lighting with which I had become mildly obsessed.

He responded thus:

" if you want to learn about light... go for an a walk in an English wood"....

Now.. a few decades on I think one can safely substitute an English wood for all manner of nationalities of wood, but I take his point. Walking through a wood on a sunny day with just the right amount of mist hovering among the tree tops you will discover every lighting scenario you are likely to need. There's dappled light, diffused light, direct sunlight and all the Ridley Scott 'Alien' style beams of light you could ever wish to encounter.

"So what's all this got to do with headhots? " you might reasonably declaim at this point.

Well.. everything and nothing as it happens. Although it's unlikely that if you decide to book a headshot session with me that I will choose to back light you wreathed in smoke like a scene from Ridley's debut masterpiece The Duelists, (although it has been known) it has instilled in me an awareness of light that will help me get the best picture of you I can. I've spent many years trying different lighting set ups and I take great pleasure in creating exactly the right type of lighting to make you look like the best version of you I can and hopefully with just a bit of movie style sparkle for added measure.

Likewise if you want me to shoot your portrait then you just might get the aforementioned Ridley treatment, that's assuming it's not a more conservative company portrait in which case the smoke and beams might have to be optional...

From a practical perspective it might be reassuring to know that I spent over twenty years working with actors and myself graduated from LAMDA, so if you're an actor who wants to feel confident that you're in the right hands, look no further.

If you are an entrepreneur or business owner who wants a head shot or company portrait , you can take comfort in the knowledge that I also spent many years working as a producer and production manager for large corporate events, for clients such as Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Jaguar, Mercedes, Buckingham Palace and even NASA! So I understand exactly what is needed to deliver the right kind of images for those environments and how to show you at your best.

Head on over to the testimonials page to see what past clients have said about working together and to the portfolio page to see the kind of work that can be achieved for your shoot.

And remember.. a smoke machine's for life not just for Christmas....

Darkness Falls