Derek Henderson

Interview with New Zealand Photographer

Derek Henderson is probably the most successful New Zealand photographer of his generation or the next few generations for that matter. He’s shot more fashion stories than most of us have had hot dinners and is in high demand for his travel and art photography. He’s internationally represented by one of the top photographic agencies, MAP.

Although he’s constantly surrounded by clothes from the big designers, his own style is a bit more low-key and practical revolving around grey separates. Almost like a prison uniform. When I met him his grey sweater was by New York label Rag and Bone (bought by his wife) but he also shops at Uniqlo and American Apparel.

We chatted about travel, photography and remaining true to yourself.

R. I really loved the cover story you shot for Holiday magazine; can you tell me a bit about that shoot?

D. I was commissioned by Franck Durand, who’s the, I suppose he’s the editor slash producer of that magazine. I think he owns it as well. He contacted me, because you know how they do issues on different countries, and he said if I commissioned you to go to Argentina what would you do? And I knew straight away that I wanted to do in Patagonia, I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Chatwin who wrote In Patagonia, and Songlines and all these fantastic books. So I thought I’d do that and they straight away said that’s a cool idea. So we went to Patagonia for two and a half weeks and did 6000 kilometres from Bahia Blanca to Tierra del Fuego.

R what advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

D If you want to be a photographer you better be pretty passionate about it because there’s a lot of people out there who want to be photographers.

R Do you think that Instagram is changing what people want to see in photography? And is that good or bad?

D It’s a powerful tool, I can't speak for anyone else, but as a commissioning tool I know creatives who have never even seen my portfolio and they’ve booked me off my Instagram feed. I can put commercial work up there that I’ve been commissioned to do, but then I’ll put up a picture of my son and so you can find out what people are about. It’s sort of a more personal visual diary. It’s quite powerful and I think people want to know what you’re like too. They don’t want to just know the pictures you take and you show. I mean it’s an edited diary as well.

The most successful artists and musicians in the world; you can recognise their work straight away. You don’t have to see their name, that’s the most important thing. So don’t try and do everything to please everybody, you’re sort of going to fuck off half the world and half the world’s going to like you. You can’t please everyone.

This is an edited version of the full interview