Photo: Derek Henderson
Photographer Derek Henderson has only felt negative media attention once: over a shoot he did with then-16 year old Zippora Seven for Russh Magazine in 2008. In the offending photograph, Seven is depicted naked in a bath alongside model Levi Clarke, with four champagne bottles in the foreground. At the time, Seven's agent Priscilla Leighton-Clark said, "Had I known it was to be a topless shoot, (Seven) would never have done it." Three years later, Henderson is still spooked. "We were emulating those famous photographs of Johnny Depp and Kate Moss. We'd done the research and had all these images printed out, and we were just trying to capture that energy. I had reporters calling me every day and cameras following me when I was walking down the street with my daughter. I didn't know what was going to happen." The magazine was eventually let off the hook by the Australian Literature Classification Board, the issue experienced record sales numbers and Henderson and Seven continued to work together. And now they're teaming up once again; this time for a book of nude photographs.
Shot over summer in various locations – including the Waikato River, Waikumete Cemetery and Seven's own home – the book will include Henderson's photographs alongside illustrations by Kiwi artist Kelly Thompson. "I always take photos that are about the models – their personalities," says Henderson. "I don't really care about the clothes. Zippora's really comfortable with no clothes on and she looks amazing. I shot some in her backyard with her whole family there. She doesn't care at all. We were shooting in the cemetery and two ladies walked past and I was like, 'Quick! Put something on!' and Zippora's so chilled out she didn't even worry. I was more embarrassed than she was."
Despite Henderson's own predilection for nude photography, he believes that young models shouldn't be encouraged to take their clothes off on set when they're just starting out. "Young girls wanna get photographed for fashion magazines and young male photographers really just wanna take their clothes off. So the girls can be compromised," says Henderson. "I'm not going to lie, that was part of the attraction of becoming a photographer. But some of those test shots of girls you see, they're standing there with this look on their face like, 'I just came in to get one photo taken and now I've got my clothes off. How did this happen?'" (Full disclosure: I couldn't agree more.)
The secret to achieving a successful photograph, says Henderson, is chemistry. "The model needs to be feeling like they're comfortable and attractive, like they're surrounded by cotton wool or in a bubble... Nothing works better than telling a woman she's beautiful. People think that models are not like real people. I try to treat them exactly the same as anyone I photograph."
Illustration: Kelly Thompson
Derek Henderson's book featuring nude photographs of Zippora Seven and illustrations by Kelly Thompson will be published in the next 12 months.
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