*ooof*: Look Back

So many new images of RA are coming up at the moment, all courtesy of the hype and the press junket that is ‘The Hobbit’. Are you all glued to your PC screens and your social network of choice? It looks like Armitage has really upped his game, both in terms of style as well as facing media attention. He has employed the services of a stylist who is making sure Armitage comes across as gorgeous as he is. And he seems to have become more secure (more used to?) at dealing with fan adoration and press situations. I am delighted for him – and for myself, to be witnessing a transformation. Not that he wasn’t *oooofness* personified beforehand, too. He was. And to a certain extent his occasional lapses in the style department were almost endearing in their cluelessness and general “I am just a normal boy” attitude.

Take for instance this shoot from 2005 that was done after Armitage had shot to fame as the “overbearing master” in North and South. From a series of six shots currently accessible on richardarmitagenet.com, I have chosen the only photographically acceptable shot. (In order to keep to my preferred *ooof* format, I am only showing you this one image, but I would urge you to hop over to Ali’s magnificant site to examine the other images from the series for illustration of my point. Click here.) you may wonder why I am emphatic about this being the only acceptable shot. After all, the images in the series are all very similar: Armitage is posing against a white-panelled background. He is dressed in a green shirt, casually leaning, sitting and standing with his hands buried in his pockets. I have not researched which of these images were ever used in newspapers or promotional material, and I have not identified the photographer, either. But maybe the anonymity is deliberate, because 5 out of 6 photographs are really nothing to be proud of. And not because of Mr Armitage but because of technicallym flawed photography.


Cornered into bad style decisions and even worse photography?
Richard Armitage in 2005.
Image via richardarmitagenet.com

The shot above is the only one that is not marred by barrel distortion. Photospeak, I am afraid, but even the non-photographer can clearly make out what I am referring to: if you check any of the other images, you will notice that Armitage’s (beautiful) head is out of proportion with the rest of his body. Image 5 is a particularly obvious example of this effect, caused by a lazy(?), careless photographer. The barrel distortion is caused by standing too close to a subject while zooming out (i.e. getting a smaller view of the subject by adjusting the zoom). Wide-angle lenses are particularly prone to this effect, hence they are also often called fisheye lenses. This is a phenomenon that is widely known by photographers. It is one of the most encountered problems, easily remedied by taking a step back and zooming in. hence I am surprised the photographer got it so wrong here. Because the effect is not pretty: Bending the lines outward, Armitage’s head has ballooned and sits on a body that looks too small for his head. Big no-no!

It could’ve been caused by Mr Armitage moving around, posing for the photographer. Maybe the snapper said “Go on, Richard, give me the Thornton glower that made Margaret feel hot under her bonnet!”, and Armitage complied, leaning forward to angle his head to look from under his lowered forehead. That’s how I like to imagine it. If this is a conscious aesthetic decision on the part of the photographer, then he should be dishonourably excluded from our profession!!! In any case, those images should never have seen the light of day public!

Our image above has other flaws: the background (which reveals itself as the panelling in a stairwell, of all places!!!) in theory adds nice, geometric patterns thanks to the black lines. However, the perspective from which the photographer is shooting, reveals the gap in the corner of the panelling, a detail that annoys me. There are some minor but unsightly reflections in the panel to Armitage’s left. Plus there was obviously no stylist on stand-by as Armitage’s shirt shows fold lines.

In true, adoring fan-form I find it hard to find fault with Armitage himself, though. He is giving off a relaxed but alert vibe with his pose: looking straight at the camera, his head very slightly inclined to the left. Do we see the pattern emerging here, ladies? The inclined head is an Armitage trademark, the equivalent to Margaret Hale’s demure, bashed eyelids, so to speak, the corporeal expression of a modest soul who is just about to fathom the effect he is causing with his acting and his looks. The hands in his pocket give him away – while we often think it is simply a gesture of relaxed comfort to stick our hands in our pockets, it is actually a classic sign of lack of self-confidence, hiding the hands in the pockets also signifies being uncomfortable under scrutiny – all of which applies to a situation like a photo-shoot with a newly famous actor… especially when equipped with such a modest and humble attitude as Armitage.

The discerning viewer cops on to that – and quickly finds the shy demeanor not only endearing but rather adding to the attractiveness: Much in contradiction to how we usually experience attractive people, i.e. full of their own beauty and importance, this extraordinarily gorgeous specimen seems to be unaware of his attractiveness and subsequent effect (also known as “the feels” and onomatopoetically transcribed as *thud*). That appeals even to the most hardened of souls. And even the necklace of questionable aesthetic value cannot detract from that but rather enforces it: this man quite clearly had not dressed to kill the ladies, he’s here as himself, wearing his own jewellery, oblivious to the impression it may leave on the viewer. And maybe, subconsciously and deep, deep down, the enamoured viewer may secretly wish to be that funny shaped pendant, hanging so close to Armitage’s chest, feeling his heartbeat and the warmth of his skin, catching a whiff of his scent…

All niggles aside – this may not be my favourite image of Armitage. But the longer I look at it, the more I find in it that I believe to be the “real” Armitage. The young actor, the up-and-coming TV star, yet unused to the spotlight, but ready to please and to entertain. He is honing this readiness to please to perfection these days, ever gracious in his most recent appearances (anybody see his stint on Canadian talk show Marilyn today? The way he “dipped” the host in a strong and good-humoured embrace had my heart fall right from the ribcage into my belly. Or possibly a few inches lower…)

Keep dipping, Mr Armitage, we love it you!

All text © Guylty at me + richard armitage, 2012. Please credit when using excerpts and links. Images and video copyrights accrue to their owners.

~ by Guylty on December 4, 2012.

27 Responses to “*ooof*: Look Back”

  1. I’m glad to have the technical term for that distortion of the face, which in some of these photos is really unflattering and makes him look like he’s in a funhouse.

    W/r/t the folds in his shirt — one of these photos was shown with an interview, the interview takes as its topos “Average Armitage, no heartthrob,” and the reporter notes that at the end of the interview Armitage disappears to change clothes and reappears in a shirt with the folds from the packaging still in it. I don’t think that was deliberate on his part (i.e., I agree with you that it was clueless behavior), but the journalist noted it and the folds became part of his “down to earth, careless” ethos.

    I would add that he was wearing these necklace things visible for quite awhile and while they may have reflected his own style choices, a lot of people disliked them.


    • It’s kind of a weird hybrid, this *ooof*. It’s not quite an anti-*ooof*, but I am rather less than flattering about the photographer. Not sure what that is – maybe me being Little Miss Contrary in the face of all the beautiful pictures we are currently flooded with? Mind you, I think it is fantastic how RA has progressed. Not only in terms of his own development but also in terms of photographers. These days he seems to work with top people who really know their game. And he deserves that!


  2. Thanks you for identifying that photographic blooper in terms of the fisheye lens. It’s one that is so often seen seen in candids, and intensely annoying in supposedly professional promotional shots. The other annoying issue has been the foreshortening of the legs. There are some which would have allowed the actor to audition as a dwarf without CGI – mind you, these are amateur candid shots. But the transition to ease with interviews and fans has been a joy. As has been the barely contained joy shown by Armitage during the Hobbit promotional processes! Thoroughly enjoyed your analysis, Guylty!

    Caught the Marilyn interview this morning. A bit frustrated with our media this evening – no TV coverage of the premiere red carpet??? Not on any of the channels – not even Entertainment Tonight from Toronto. The Stromboulopoulus interview was recorded this aft. No date for its TV surfacing. This is merely the Canadian premiere of a major film and our media is MIA?


    • “… foreshortening of the legs. There are some which would have allowed the actor to audition as a dwarf without CGI.” *LOL – so true. That is the same effect, actually. As I said above – I am glad RA is nowadays getting top notch photographers to shoot him. The difference is quite obvious.


  3. Very insightful, thank you, especially the barrel distortion as a defect, instead of a means of expression.
    I actually loved the old set of photographs, because it somehow gave me the impression that his orientation is not gay – there, I said it, don’t run me away for it. 😉
    The interview by Richard Crouse is his best in the last days, imho: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXDZ-PZCPU0 .


    • Thanks for your comment, Betina – and sorry if I have dampened your enthusiasm for the whole set of pics. That’s not really my intention – but I have to admit that I am slightly forcing my preferences on everyone else. Sorry for that – I suppose that is the prerogative of the writer 😉


      • the blogger always has more rhetorical power than the audience … which is fine, actually, IMO, as it allows the blogger to articulate a coherent position fully. Most of us are not pushing our perspectives except in the sense that we state that we have them.


        • Agreed. I just think that needs to be reiterated every once in a while, so that readers are fully aware that a blog is highly personal and thus subjective, even if written in rather academic prose. My only way of counteracting my own preferences is *ooofing* images that have been suggested by others. Oh, and by assuring everyone that I am open to discussion and even persuasion


  4. Thanks a lot for the explanation of the size distortion. I see it quite often, and I never understood how that happens.
    This picture, however, made me wish again he kept his hair style closer to the one on it (not quite that boyish, of course, more like in Spooks). I know I’m in a tiny minority, but to me there is at least one problem with his current one, however much I try to talk myself into ignoring it 😦


    • RBB, I am quite happy to join your minority movement!!!! Yes, I quite liked that hairstyle, more than the slightly Elvis-y quiff he is sporting now. It just made him look young and happy, less serious and less respectable 😉 Tell me what the problem with his current hairstyle is, I am curious now.


  5. Ah, the choker/necklace. These photos are so horrible I didn’t even notice it’s presence until mentioned. LOL. Thanks for the great analysis. I always wondered what caused that fish eye look.


  6. Thank you, Gulty! Actually I didn’t know that this is “professional” photo session 😉 ..anyway I like these old photo shoots ( I like the hole in the jeans, I like the pendant and the crumpled shirt:)) I’m sentimental.


    • Yeah, I am pretty sure it is professionally taken – the lighting is actually pretty good in all the shots – nicely balanced between light and shadow, nicely diffused light, no unsightly “bang” flash. So the photographer had *some* clue. Maybe it was actually because he was shooting in a cramped space that he had to zoom out and take the risk of distorting RA? That thought has only just now occurred to me… But even then – he could’ve just used a nice 50mm prime lens, and none of this would’ve happened…
      Re. hole in jeans: Oh, I love little imperfections like that. The crumpled shirt is ok, too, in my book – the pendant necklace *uagh*, nah, intolerable 😉 But that’s just me.


  7. OK, is barrel distortion going on here, Guylty? http://www.globalnews.ca/canada/entertainment/richard+armitage+a+fan+of+hobbits+use+of+48+frames-per-second+visual+effect/6442765472/story.html


    • Yep, another classic one. Graaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Awful… Good thing that our brain knows how to cancel that effect out…


      • Why do photographers do this? Is it really just not thinking?


        • Yes, I think it is an oversight in the stress of being on a press shoot. You’re highly charged because you know you need to deliver the shots, and you just click away as fast as you can. The little screen on the back of the camera even on the big pro gear is not big enough to show the flaws right away. Hence you end up with distorted or out-of-focus duds. Some of the barrel distortion you can, btw, cancel in post-production. Photoshop has automated functions for that. However, it works better on straight lines than on rounded, human faces…


          • Interesting. I guess I tend to see that effect and thinking of the figural foreshortening in some Renaissance paintings.

            I bought a digital camera again for the first time in years (the cheapest possible one) and it’s been interesting to me, just exactly how much I can fix even in iPhoto, which isn’t very sophisticated. There seems to be a double dynamic at work. On the one hand digital cameras have democratized photography. On the other hand, it has sloppified them. I know with myself that I really do just point and click now on the assumption that I can fix it “enough” later. Then again I’m not doing anything sophisticated, either.


            • You hit the nail on the head, Servetus. The advent of affordable digital cameras has indeed opened up photography to everyone. You can take as many pics as you like – it won’t cost you anything. It is dead easy to shoot 500 images or more on a one-hour shoot. The trouble: you have to edit a huge number of shots down to the useable ones. And then you need to post-produce the ones that you narrowed your choice down to. Hugely time- intensive. I am not a fan if PS at all – I prefer to get things right when I shoot, not after. I really learnt that when I went back to the roots of photography last year, shooting large format (4×5 inch) film on a camera that pretty much looks and works like the old-fashioned ones from the 19th century. The cost of film and development was hefty – 10 € PER SHOT!!!. I could only afford to take two pictures per subject matter. And you know what? Every single one of them turned put perfect and just the way I wanted them! Slowing down really works! On my mist recent commercial shoot I did just that – I only took a max of 5-7 shots per item. It was much quicker for the client on the actual shoot and then for me for post-production. As regards camera quality: it’s not the camera that “makes” the photo but the photographer! If you observe some basic rules/tricks/tips, you can achieve perfectly adequate photography. And taking a bit if time to think through what you are trying to achieve will benefit you hugely. Mind you – that doesn’t apply to event photography like a press call where you have to capture the fleeting moment of Armitage smiling dearly, Armitage posing as Mr Smoulder or Armitage meeting a fan. That is all about click-click-click and depends on luck as much as experience and good gear.


    • OH GOD!


  8. […] [Right: Richard Armitage in a photo from the shoot for this interview, which created an initially decisive, but oversimplified, strand in the "Richard Armitage" persona. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com. Don't miss Guylty's discussion of the technical errors in these photos here.] […]


  9. […] is the barrel distortion interfering with Armitage’s face again (cf. this post I wrote a while ago on me+richard that discussed the problem.). It is caused by the photographer […]


  10. I know this is an older post but Guylty – I CANNOT LET THIS PASS:

    “…this extraordinarily gorgeous specimen seems to be unaware of his attractiveness and subsequent effect (also known as “the feels” and onomatopoetically transcribed as *thud*).”

    Wicked. WICKED!!!!! I CAN’T EVEN!!!!!1!!!11


  11. […] might remind you of an old ooof I did a long time ago where I talked about distortion before. In this case, I absolve the […]


  12. […] An ex-newspaper photographer, Cannon really appears to like shooting dead-pan, straight-on. Not quite sure about the chronology of his oeuvre but his work seems to have become more monochromatic over the years. ooof […]


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