*ooof*: Two Slices of Armitage, Please

Judging from the reactions I am getting here and on tumblr, we are not done yet with pictures of Armitage as himself. At least those are the *ooofs* that tend to get more likes/reblogs/comments than the ones of him in character. What does that mean, ladies, gents and fans? That we prefer the man behind the role or that the *ooofs* are better when they are about a real person, not a character?

Well, then let’s look at a recent image of Armitage, taken in New York in December 2012 while on his promotion tour for the Hobbit. A productive period for the lucky New York chapter of photography professionals. Armitage sat for Victoria Will, and did a fashion shoot with Paula Parrish for Fault. And largely unbeknownst to me, he also did a video interview for USA Today. This must have happened the same day as the Victoria Will shoot. Guylty “Holmes” observes: Armitage is wearing the same clothes in the Will shoot and in the USA Today picture. Easy. Ha, that was not very hard now, was it?

USAToday-RA-5questions

Posing again in the same clothes? I hope you washed your armpits, Richard (ooops, that was a different shoot)
Armitage in a shot by Robert Deutsch for USA Today, Dec 2012.
Image sourced via RAnet.com

I still stand over my enthusiastic proclamation of a month ago when I *ooofed* the Victoria Will’s shoot and proclaimed hers as my favourite recent images of Armitage. Purely personal preference – I like black on black images. And thus I am drawn towards today’s *ooof* with Armitage wearing a black leather jacket over a black hoodie. He is sporting a chunky black watch, black denims and… eh… black shoes. The black knight is back, it seems… (Well, you are welcome, Guy.) Again, Armitage is posing black on black – he is sitting on an old-style armchair, leaning with his right arm on the right armrest of the furniture. Composition-wise the image could have been tidied up a bit: Armitage is leaning slightly to his left while twisting his torso to look over the right armrest. That detail detracts a little bit from the composition of the image. It probably would also have improved the overall impression of the portrait, if the photographer had asked Armitage to lift his chin a tiny bit and to get his head straight. Especially the latter. The look from under the brow at this stage is somewhat of an Armitage speciality, and in the absence of even the faintest trace of a double chin (no worries, Mr A – you will never be a “fat dude”) the downward angle of his face is fine.

I am probably a little bit soft on this image, though. And that is because I am already pleased beyond words that I get the context of the shoot. The portrait accompanied an article in USA Today. And the online version of it has a short video clip with “5 questions for Armitage”. Here we can see how and where Armitage was photographed. I find such insights fascinating. Obviously, I draw my own professional conclusions (take ideas?) from that. But even for non-insiders I think it is interesting to see how the image we will later see in glossy mags is produced. And let me tell you – they are sometimes produced in less than glossy circumstances…

The location here appears to be a large hotel suite. A few things are needed to get some decent images of Armitage: Firstly, the photographer/videographer has put up a plain background. It is barely visible if you have a look at the video and check the wall behind Armitage’s back in the side shots. The backdrop actually looks to me either like  a Lastolite Hi-Lite (a wonderful contraption for getting a completely blown-out white background behind a sitter. I have worked with it before and absolutely adore it. ) or a collapsible backdrop that can be squeezed together into a flat round shape for easy transport.

Secondly and more obviously, a lighting kit has been brought in. Now, for logical reasons we do not actually get to *see* it in use when the photographer is actually taking the photos but only when the video interview is being filmed. For that purpse the room has been completely darkened and only Armitage is illuminated by the softbox. A  softbox – as I have mentioned before – diffuses the light and lights up subject or object evenly and with fuzzy shadow. However, this softbox has been fitted with an extra accessory. The grid you can see in front of the softbox, is called an egg crate. What this does is direct the light. While the light that comes from the source is still diffused, it gets directed through the egg crate. Essentially this accessory prevents the light from spilling into areas of the set-up where the photographer does not want any light. On a location-shoot: pretty much everywhere *haha*, especially in a plush environment like this hotel suite with flowery carpet, panelled walls and ornate wall-hangings.

If you compare the lighting set-up with the finished portrait, you can see what I have tried to describe: The light has been strictly confined to the sitter. Hardly anything of the background is seen in the image. Only the back rest of the chair – which adds context and avoids our sitter looking like Sindbad on a flying carpet: It roots him to the ground, lends him gravity. For the photo shoot either the light source of Armitage’s chair was moved: In the video Armitage appears to be lit from his left, leaving a tiny bit of shadow on the right side of his face. Compare with the photo: Here the shadow is on the right – but overlaid with light. I presume a reflector has been brought in to light up his face. Also, the perspective of the camera has changed in the photograph. The photographer was standing up when making the image while the video was shot with the camera at the same height as Armitage’s head.

The difference adds subtle feelings to the two media – by filming on the same height level as Armitage’s face, the viewer will feel closer and almost “equal” to Armitage. A feeling of immediacy is evoked, of closeness and intimacy as if Richard is talking to us alone. (If he looked into the camera while talking, the illusion could be perfect.) In the photograph, however, Armitage has to look up to the camera. This adds the impression of distance and of slightly more formality, further emphasised by the obvious posing of the sitter: Armitage is holding still, he has got a rather intense expression on his face – actually much fiercer then in the clip where he comes across as more relaxed, friendly and informal.

I must admit that I like relaxed, friendly Armitage better. And my point is proven again, that he comes across better when he is not made to pose but when he is allowed to move as he likes. Victoria Will got that right. While this image by Robert Deutsch is by no means bad, it is not nearly as evocative as the pictures taken (presumably) the same day by Will. Well, there could be other reasons than the photographer’s style of working. It could be that Armitage was tired by the time he had to do the shoot for USA today. He might have been impatient because he had already done the video interview and didn’t feel like posing for photographs. Maybe he was hungry, or it was 5 pm and he had promised Mama Armitage to ring her before noon in Leicester. Or it could be Armitage working better with female photographers – I WISH!!! Whatever it is: photography visualises a slice of life. And I’d rather like to have two than just one…

All text © Guylty at me + richard armitage, 2013. Please credit when using excerpts and links. Images and video copyrights accrue to their owners.

~ by Guylty on February 19, 2013.

35 Responses to “*ooof*: Two Slices of Armitage, Please”

  1. Tes, two slices, please (and I’m not embarrassed toa ask for seconds). I was wondering why I liked the Victoria Will images better than this one, even though I still feel the *oof*. With your analysis, I can now see the reasons.

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  2. I think you are right- he is actually working better with female photographers 😉 ! I often noticed that he’s even more charming when he is doing interviews with a female – his behaviour and even his gaze are different – he seems to more animated, even a little bit flirtatious at times 😉 .

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    • Yes, I didn’t really dare say that, Nimue, but I have the sneaking suspicion that he is “sexist” in that way. He connects with female photographers/interviewers better. The really interesting question is – why. But I leave that up to everyone’s own interpretation. On the other hand, when it comes to photos, it is no wonder that we – mostly women – find the female photographers’ interpretations of RA more attractive than images taken by male photographers. Something about our ways of seeing, I guess.

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  3. I think this post is a great example of a RA fan giving us all something to consider (other than his good looks). I appreciate learning how other professionals see things!

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    • Thanks for the comment, and welcome to the blog. (I’m the host blogger; I didn’t write this post.) I left a comment on your blog — but the Armitage fandom is much more diverse than the comment implies. Lots of us are interested in things in addition to admiring his appearance, as you’ll see when you explore the blogosphere and the forums.

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      • I think the looks may have been a starting point. But in order to sustain this level of interest in himself, Armitage has to be more than pretty… But thanks for the comment, Kathy.

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  4. There’s that amazing crooked left eyebrow and the angular shading of the forehead.

    What you’ve been writing has been giving me a lot more sympathy for photographers than I used to have — they really must have to do a lot of fairly ad hoc scene construction in their work, as your comments here imply.

    To me, this was the only one of the posed black leather on black hoodie shoots that really “worked” — and I assume it’s something about the lighting that has that effect on me? His face is lit in such warm tones here.

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    • Actually I never went into the colour of the light, Servetus, even though I have an important point to make about it. Unfortunately not in a complimentary way, though. In my opinion, the hue of the light is actually wrong. It’s far too yellow for my taste. Usually that is a sign of the White Balance having been set wrong – which I doubt an old hand like Robert Deutsch with 30 years experience would get wrong – so it must be deliberate. Could also be caused by light spill from different light sources: If you have two different types of light in a shoot (for instance both daylight and tungsten light), a hue may be visible in the shot… It does make the whole scene look warmer, I agree. But I get hung up over little flaws like that…
      As regards the “ad hoc scene construction”: Spot on, Servetus! I can tell you one thing about this business: It is trouble shooting each and every time you shoot on location. It’s utterly unpredictable because there are so many variables to work with. But it is a wonderful, creative challenge, and very rewarding… Bonus: You get to see places you usually don’t get in and you meet some really interesting people!

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      • Huh. Well, you know with all the NYC photoshoots, it was a matter of more or less (there are very few pictures of him that i have actively disliked, maybe even none). And I did like how smiley he was in the Victoria Will images. He looks more austere here. I just felt that she lit him to make him look icy (which is fine when he has his black hair on, I suppose). It was like a recasting of the Lucas North look, which I’ve never felt was his real coloring.

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        • Yes, the light was quite bright = cold in the Victoria Will shots. Personal preference, I suppose. Come to think of it: The Will shots with Deutsch’s White Balance – that would be bang on *ggg*!!.
          I have to admit that I occasionally use the wrong White Balance in order to make an image look warmer or colder, too… It’s a legitimate trick and it does come down to personal preference. Unless the photographer completely f*cks up the image with the wrong WB. As *does* happen…

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          • I know you’re opposed, but it would seem like that could be something that could be altered in the computer editor. Even iPhoto has these saturation filters and so on …

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            • Touché – I am such an old-fashioned click chick, I tend to do these things in-camera rather than in post-production, but you are right, filters can be overlaid very easily in Photoshop etc.

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  5. I live his hand in this photo, you get drawn to it. He has such beatiful hands.

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    • I mean love not live.

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      • Oh yes, his hands. Long, slender, The hands of a man who doesn’t have to do physical work, though… Do male actors take manicures and pedicures? Just imagining Richard with his hand in Tilly’s soak bath (anyone remember those corny ads for Palmolive washing-up liquid from the 1970s? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzmTtusvjR4)

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        • I remember Tilly, “You’re soaking in it!” I think that some males have their mani-pedi s done professionally, but I’ve known men to take the time to do it themselves. Men are vain creatures in their own way.

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          • hoho, and Armitage has admitted to being vain, anyway… (I think I’ll never forgive him the “wouldn’t want to be a fat dude”!)

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            • I don’t think he has manicures — or at least, when you look at closeups of his hands (not that I am admitting to doing that), his nails often look ragged or not trimmed especially well.

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        • Yes haha you can see he doesn’t need to do work with his hands, but I don’t work either with my hands and my hands look terrible and I’m a lot younger than he is. Anyway his hands would not have worked for Thorin. But I really hate Thorins prosthetic hands, they look so fake in pictures. Only thing I dislike with Thorin. But Richards own hands would have looked funny on Thorin, too thin, too perfect. As I saw in one picture where had Thorins costume and makeup but without the hand prosthetics, I accually had to laugh a little bit.

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          • Ugh, those prosthetic trowels! Yeah, very very unpleasant – but somehow in proportion with the dwarf, I guess. BTW, I didn’t even mean that in a bad way when I said he has the hands of someone who doesn’t work physically. I love it when men have beautiful hands. He sure does – even if he occasionally seems to pick at his cuticles etc.

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  6. Thanks for the shout out, Serv. *smirks*

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  7. This is a nice photo of Richard, but I like the Victoria Will photos better. He sure looks great in black. With all that black the blue eyes just pop.

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  8. Lovely post and wonderful observations! It all really depends on the photographer and the rapport the subject and the photographer will have during the shoot. Of course, there are many factors to consider as well. This was a long day for everyone – the studios book a whole floor for the junket and assign a room for each actor so that media outfits come and go at a set time. Sometimes they can go for up to 5 hours just doing interview/shoot after interview/shoot and you can only imagine how sick they must be of repeating the same thing over and over again.

    This shoot appears more formal than the Victoria Wills one, so it could also be the photographer’s choice. Who really knows? I do like the composition of this shot because from seeing his face, your eyes go down to his hands and his fingers, then back up to the face, unless you’re drawn to the chair back, but that’s subjective 🙂

    This, by the way, is how my brother shoots his subjects in portraiture (and with us, his family, we may not see the photographs for over a year because he’s busy having them photoshopped – his own family, of all people!) with the soft box and backdrop and everything.

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    • Yes, the whole thing is a really lengthy process. I do feel for Richard – sitting for a photographer can be quite tiresome. And more so when it is as part of a big press junket like the Hobbit. It must have been really really exhausting to do these gigs one after the other – and to maintain good humour and concentration. Plus, the photography is really only secondary for an actor, just part of the promo machine, nothing more. Thanks for commenting, morrighansmuse.

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  9. I’m another who preferred Victora Wills’ shots- I’m a fan of the candid and although hers aren’t, I feel as if she was just snapping away as they chatted and results show Richard as engaged and animated. For me, RA is at his most alluring when he is absorbed in the moment and not especially aware of the camera – it’s that focus and presence that is so attractive. Without wanting to stereotype, perhaps that’s why he works well with women who often find it more natural to rapport build with conversation, and tend to work collaboratively.

    I was fascinated to see long shots of the Q&A because of RA’s posture – which was slightly slumped. I noticed the same stance when he was being interviewed in NZ alongside MF and AS and wondered at the time if he was trying to make himself smaller to draw less attention to himself. He was with people who like the limelight far more than he does and good manners would also make him not wish to hog the attention. It reminded me of the young Richard who always stood at the back and had to have a shortened top hat so not to draw attention away from others in the chorus line. He also did it at Comic.com and it strikes me as an odd position for someone who practises the Alexander technique, yoga and pilates. His posture is usually quite graceful and he looks to me to have an awareness of the importance of body language – his recent outings in Canada and the US have seen him employing a very open body language which makes him look more confident. So I am wondering if he was indeed very tired when this was filmed and really just wanted to be left alone. The end of a long press day sounds spot on. Thanks again, Guylty.

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    • While I do not really like candids very much, I agree with you on the almost-candid-quality of Will’s portraits of RA. It is very much like you said – distract your sitter with chatter and you can get glimpses of the personality behind the pretty face. Will’s images revealed several facets of RA. But then again – we got to see several shots of Will’s in one image whereas here we only see one picture. Who know, maybe Mr Deutsch caught the definitive RA on film – only he is not showing it to us…
      Photography is definitely a collaborative enterprise. Without the cooperation of the sitter, the photographer merely gets an outline of a person. Capturing (a part of) the personality takes mutual trust, respect and collaboration. Not easy to rustle that up when you have all but 15 minutes for a shoot between two interviews and the poor sitter has been at the game for the whole day already.
      Interesting point about his posture. I had (subconsciously) noticed that, too – in a lot of the interviews he has been slouching in his chair. I find your interpretation very convincing – RA trying to scale back his towering height (next to positive HOBBITS *haha* such as Freeman, Serkis and Jackson). The Entertainment Weekly pic taken at Comicon is one such (horrific) example (http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m79sziKCLB1qzoaqio1_500.jpg) Not quite sure whether that is a sign of dorkiness, good breeding or shyness 😉

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  10. Two slices? Oh yes,please:) It was interesting as always,Guylty. Thanks!
    PS: Armitage prefers female photographers, I’m sure :)…yes,for sure :)..believe me;)..I feel it 😀

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  11. […] A staff photographer for USA Today, Deutsch certainly knows about the “decisive moment” . His sports photography is colourful and catchy, while his news photos focus on the perfect moment where the stars align. His portraiture is the weakest of his genres, imo. ooof […]

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