One way Armitage pictures work for me

First, for fun, read this. Heaven knows we need some!

Thursday night and I’m done teaching for the week (not done working, but done teaching). This was a stressful one. It would be silly to run through all the details. Among other things, however, I’d like to repeat this message to anyone who’s feeling like they can’t cope. I know it’s the time of year when people start to think that. Remember that if you can’t cope, people are there to help you. If you don’t have someone close to you, here’s a link provided by a reader of this blog to an index of emotional support resources worldwide.

One piece of the mess was that I was grading like wildfire every day of this week. Grading is just becoming an ever worse experience for me. Knowing that this was going to determine the week meant I had to make sure to look for the animating desire that makes a day hold its potential for joy each morning, and it wasn’t possible to find it every morning. I was up all night grading last night, and it wasn’t possible to find it this morning. Put on a happy face and jolted myself into energetic action and taught all my classes and independent studies and was done, but I was filled with desperation. I wanted to sob. Things are so much better than they were, but will they always be like this?

But at least work was done. I started flipping through the many, many pictures at, looking for the one that would take the edge off. It took me awhile, but the second I saw it, I knew. It’s this one:

Richard Armitage five ways, from that oh-so-elusive Recognise Magazine photoshoot, June 2011. Source:

Specifically this piece of it:

Richard Armitage, detail of above.

Now. There’s a ton of stuff going on in these photos, which are meant to push every possible sexual button available given the fact that he’s so fully covered by his clothing, and by prioritizing the thing that got me today, I don’t want to deny the other things. The “modest Armitage” trope. The “sharp-dressed man” theme. The “I’m more than masculine enough to wear bright colors, including hot pink” advertising. And all the very obvious “I’m about to take my clothes off for you” hints here — collar, buttons, wrinkled shirt, fiddling with cufflinks, stroking the loosened tie — with ironic or challenging (as opposed to bedroom) eyes that suggest power even as the subject engages in the process of hinting at disrobing for the viewer, a trope that makes the photo so really alluring. Yeah. All there, all good. No complaints, photographer, you got me coming and going.

Richard Armitage, detail of above.

But what got me today was the thumb and index finger on the cufflink (and the way he seems to have the edge of the cuff pressed between index and middle finger). And it wasn’t sexual. It was a combination of this way of touching even inanimate things in gentle ways that he seems to show sometimes and gets me all emotional because he makes me believe in things I don’t actually credit so easily, and the very fact that he’s rolling this impossibly small cufflink — so small that it’s hidden in the photo — carefully in his elegant, but from this perspective rather disproportionately large fingers.

It’s the detail. It’s the care with the fingers around the tiny little detail that’s moving me, that’s dislodging this whole clod of things that I haven’t been able to let go of all day.

To explain, I offer the following. And, by the way, I’m not justifying this stance as a normative position, I’m just explaining something about myself.

One of my issues with grading is that it points up all the errors in the world for me. I see one tiny mistake and it’s a synecdoche for every other one. Yeah, I was raised in that house where if you got 98% on a test, someone wanted to know why it wasn’t 100%, and I have completely integrated that perspective into my own personality, although I direct it primarily at myself rather than at others. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (though not perfect, of course, but incessantly annoyed by my own imperfections), and it annoys me to see mistakes. But not in the sense that it makes me angry at the students. On the whole I’m a stringent but not punitive grader. It’s that when I see consistent errors, I think of all the times that that error appeared before and no one corrected it, so that the student is either unaware that it’s an error, or doesn’t care enough about his/her own work to try to make it as perfect as possible. Students make a lot of mistakes honestly, but they also make a lot of mistakes they could avoid. And to me, the appearance of errors tends to signal a world in which not enough care has been taken. And that is just one of things that grading triggers: the feeling that everything about the world is hopelessly flawed, and that no one is paying attention or cares.

So I see this picture in which this perspectively large implement — Richard Armitage’s hand — is employed in twisting, or toying with, or caressing, or removing, a cufflink, and I think: a detail. Someone (the photographer, or Armitage, who knows — all of this material is staged) cares about a beautiful detail. Someone is paying attention. Getting the detail right, in my mind, means the restoration of the possibility of getting the world right. It makes me hopeful. And willing to return to the fray of looking at all the many imperfections in this very imperfect world, and trying to respond to the ones I can do something about.

~ by Servetus on April 20, 2012.

20 Responses to “One way Armitage pictures work for me”

  1. Wow, different field, same experience. Today the conference I attended signaled to me a “world where not enough care has been taken.” I have held my current position for twenty years. The first official meeting I attended in this job all those years ago was a conference on the same theme, organized by the same agency, addressing the same issues. Well, twenty years later, the problem has increased three-fold. How is it that instead of getting better, it has gotten worse? How is it possible that we have allowed policies to hurt rather than heal? I guess RA’s gentleness is the perfect way to escape the tough questions, at least for tonight. Yep, I think i will focus on those beautiful hands and long fingers.


    • yeah, if Richard Armitage ran the world, we know care would be taken 🙂

      I wonder these things too. Entropy, say the physicists, and sin, say the religious (that was the answer I grew up with) and globalization shock say the sociologists and I just want to say: what about US? What are we doing?


  2. I love it when you point out the detail like this, servetus. I’m not stressed at all, but I found looking at this photo and noticing that detail you point out, sent a wash of…something…joy? calm?… through me. He has such beautiful, gentle hands.


  3. All I can focus on now are those long luscious fingers – you could fiddle with my buttons any day ☺


  4. It’s the first time I saw this pic, thanks. I’v already seen the other, but not this one and I love it. 😉


  5. You are so busy,I know- but I needed that!. Thank you Servetus.:)
    I don’t remember where I hear that, but Joe Wright is obssesed with hands.
    Can you imagine RA in “Atonement”? *swoon*…I mean..I love James Mcavoy but.. *sigh*..anyway..well…RA was too(God forgive me!) old, to play Robbie.:(


  6. I really enjoyed reading this post and agree 100%. I teach kindergarten and I have been disgusted this year by the carelessness of the students and the parents. It really upsets me when people don’t care about their work. It REALLY upsets me when parents don’t care about their child’s education. “My mom had to wash my hair last night so I couldn’t read my reading story.” What??? It take 5 minutes! So I come home and switch on the computer to watch and read about Richard. He is so careful about the details. He works hard to get things right. He is a perfectionist when in comes to his work. I know many of his things are staged, but his expressions, the way he moves his body, that comes from him.


    • Laurie C, I see the same things in my class. Disrespect of others, of property, just a general lack of care on the part of parents. Makes me worry , as these are the future leaders of our world.

      But my gosh, that man is just gorgeous!!


      • yeah. I wonder: are we really so wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t see all the things we are neglecting? part of it is that life is really complicated. I acknowledge that.


    • thanks for the comment, and welcome, Laurie C. I think the point is that he cares to get it right. A lot of acting is posing.


  7. This is at least the fourth picture where I absolutely adore the gentle- & carefullness of his hands! Didn’t knew it before. The other ones are: NS with kiss, SB with laptop. And then there’s John Standring, I don’t know how to describe this scene, so I link it (I don’t know if I’m allowed to link it here, so delete it if not): & the following two caps.
    I’m also drawn to perfectionism but it does me no good because I can spend so much time with it. Anyways, I loved the first link, thanks!


    • that’s a classic, radddicted, thanks for linking!

      yeah, perfectionism is really dangerous. A little is a good thing, but too much is a trap.


  8. I tend to be a perfectionist and a long time ago I thought that was a good thing. However over time I’ve come to realize that striving for perfection can actually be detrimental. But just because I realize something doesn’t mean I’ve come to grips with the new reality. I work in an environment where attention to detail is an integral part of the work and if a detail is missed it can cause huge problems for me and the agency I work for. Even so, I was in a team meeting just this week where my manager was using me as an example of how we were all going round and round striving to get something perfect when there’s no way that can be done. When I first went to work with this group they were always talking about the 80/20 rule and my reaction was how could they possibly be satisfied with not getting it 100 percent!?! But that was 5 years ago. Now I’m beginning to believe if I can get the 80 percent, I’ll be satisfied — and maybe that’s not so bad after all.
    As for pictures of RA making me happy, I’ve tried to figure out a way of streaming images of him non-stop in my office (I work from home). Sort of like those marquees that are constantly displaying advertisements. Certainly would make my work day more interesting — probably more productive too. Hmmm…that would be an interesting experiment. Play non-stop images of RA for a group of people and see if it makes them happier and more productive.


    • It’s a hard thing to parse. Like: I really don’t want mistakes in my published work (by which I mean, work that I publish under my real name). I try to avoid them as much as possible, but it’s not really possible to eliminate all errors, no matter how hard you try. And trying to can keep you from moving on. I suppose maybe one facet of my problem is that I’m jealous of my students’ carelessness 🙂

      I like the idea of a constant RA image stream. Must be monetizable 🙂


  9. Hi Serv,
    A lovely subject and essay. The photographer and RA got the composition more than perfect in this portrait as you state.

    For me, the allure of this portrait begins with his gaze–as if he is looking through the camera lens at us. He does this so successfully in many of his portraits. I just wonder what he is thinking at the time he is doing it. We’ll never know unless some one asks him. But RA’s gaize is definitely a gaze that “expects” a gaze in reponse–or at least, he surely understands that he will be gazed at. And when I have written about gazes before, I liken them to an invitation for continued or enhanced interaction–in a dating scenario, for example. So I interpret RA’s gaze here as an invitation to gaze at him.

    The deep blue of RA’s suit jacket enveloping him, hiding him from view in a formal, dressy, and classic way is also a beautiful choice–whether or not the blue complement’s his eyes. I agree with you about not seeing his body here–except in silhouette–as being provocative.

    Then finally, the hands. RA has big hands, strong hands, gentle hands–as we have seen him use them in his character portrayals. Yet, he is also able to make his hands do finely detailed work–such as chopping food ingredients on a cooking show, or adjust his small cuff link as in this portrait. How he makes his large hands and fingers do such finely detailed actions is very graceful.

    Thanks for adding to my relaxation today.

    Cheers! Grati ;->


  10. […] “One way Armitage pictures work for me,” April 20, 2012. A rumination on a detail in a picture that consoled me on a bad […]


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