Biker Guy or nice guy?
This post was actually written for the upcoming FanstRA 4. And then… then I completely threw everything overboard, the whole concept, and decided last night, more or less on a whim, to start from scratch with something different. That is why you are getting another “Classic Armitage” today, as opposed to a shiny, new picture from his latest shoots. I hope you’ll enjoy this, nonetheless.
Black and white. Timeless. Gritty, edgy. Classic portraiture. How come then that we see so little b/w when it comes to Armitage. For today’s *ooof* I have chosen one of the few monochrome images that exist of him. This picture is part of a shoot by Chris Floyd for Red Magazine from 2007. (If you would like to see another picture taken by the same photographer on the same shoot, click here for an *ooof* that I wrote in September 2012 ) And what an image it is – I really like it. And that has got some to do with the photography and a lot with the handsome man that is in it.
Compositionally, this photo has been done the conventional way. Armitage is centre-image. Conventionally, photographers tend to place the most important part of an image in the centre of the composition. Just what we like to see, as fans. We do not want anything to distract from Mr Armitage, so a centrally placed RA is good. Unusually, however, the half-length portrait has been shot on landscape orientation. Strangely, Floyd has composed the image in such a way that the top of Armitage’s head has been cut off. Ouch. That is not good – we do not want to lose even the smallest bit of our man. However – it sometimes happens. And if this should happen to you too, dear reader, when you are taking pictures yourself, then always bear in mind that there are certain cut-off points in an image. For instance, if you are taking a headshot of your sitter, you may slice off part of your model’s crown – but you never cut your sitter’s chin! So we will forgive the photographer for once.
As mentioned above, it appears slightly unusual that the photographer has chosen to take a half-length portrait on landscape orientation. An upright subject would be perfectly framed in a portrait orientation. Why the landscape format? The decision makes more sense when one bears in mind that shots like these may serve many purposes. Because at the time of taking the shot the photographer may not yet know in what kind of layout his final image is going to be used. Will it be simply the portrait of the sitter? Is it going to be a cover shot for a magazine? Or will it serve as a double spread background image? All three purposes can be manufactured from this image: For the simple portrait, the photographer will simply crop the image closely and lose some of the background to produce a portrait orientation of the shot. For a cover image, the subject should probably not be in the centre of the picture – the photographer must leave some space either to the left or the right of the sitter. That can be done by cropping, as well. Lastly, the picture as is can easily be used as a double spread, leaving space for text on either side of the subject. All considered, the decision to shoot RA in landscape orientation has turned out to be the safest bet with all options kept open. Bingo!
The camera settings also support this strategy. All of the sitter is in focus – which leads me to think that the aperture used here is something between f6.4 and f8.0. With RA standing a good metre away from the background, this has the effect of keeping the wall behind him blurred out and thus not too distracting. This, again, is important when using an image like this for the cover or as a full page/double spread with copy on the image itself.
Now to our favourite part of the image – the subject himself. Taken from slightly below Armitage’s head height (no wonder really, as Armitage is taller than the average man), we can see Armitage smiling nicely. His body is turned slightly away from the camera while facing the photographer with his head. Although his hands are placed in his back pockets, the posture is relaxed – his shoulders are not hunched up and Armitage does not look tense. Usually hidden hands are a sign of defensiveness. But in this case the pose leads to an open and unprotected chest and torso. The effect is one of openness and confidence. Considering the edgyness of b/w photography and the gritty background, this could be viewed as a contradiction. But it still works very well here. This is not a shady character, lurking in the underground, but a friendly man. The lighting of the shot could’ve easily turned this into a dichotomous interpretation of Armitage – of the face-half-hidden-in-shadow kind. And sure enough, in keeping with the location – some sort of subway – light illuminates the sitter only from one side. Strong light which pretty much looks like natural light to me, reaches Armitage from his left. There is little light from his right, shoulder and arm appear rather dark. However, there is some light on the right side of his face. Presumably a reflector has been used to throw a bit of light back on him so that we can make out his features – but not much of the details on his right side.
In a gritty setting such as a rough subway, a man dressed to the nines would look out of place. Accordingly, the styling of Armitage is appropriate to the location. He is dressed casually, with a (leather?) jacket and a t-shirt underneath. His hair is slightly tousled, the bangs are in his face – another indication that this is a location shoot in a windy subway tunnel. Armitage’s sideburns are carefully shaved, he is sporting stubble on his cheeks. Leather, stubble, sideburn, b/w, tunnel. What does all this imply? Armitage the biker boy? This is Armitage in his Gisborne phase. The sideburns and mullet speak volumes. Or should I say they speak season 2? The leather styling coupled with Armitage’s sweet smile – this could come across as a contradiction. But my hunch is, that this is an attempt at creating a gritty, cool image while also picturing RA as a friendly, nice guy.
Or maybe this is a 21st century Guy? A not-quite-post-Marian Guy. A Guy who has not yet killed the woman he loves and who is belying the goodness at the bottom of his heart in his sweet smile. Can you imagine Guy of Gisborne in the 21st century? I easily can, and I quite like the idea that he might be roaming the subways of the British Isles with his Norton Commando. Heck, commando style is just what I can imagine Guy of Gisborne getting up to in the 21st century. Biker Guy or nice guy? I like them both.
Oh, and a little bit of housekeeping at the end: As to FanstRA 2013 – watch out for posts from Monday, 11th of March until Sunday, 17th of March on one or two or countless blogs near you. In order not to clog up me+r with my crap stuff, I will be posting all my FanstRA submissions on my as yet completely empty WordPress blog guylty.wordpress.com/ as well as my usual playground on tumblr. My regular scheduled Tuesday *ooof* on me+r will also be part of FanstRA and appear here as usual. I have no plans to defect to my own WordPress blog in the future, though, and Servetus willing and permitting, I shall continue to write from my home here on me+r. However, I would love it if you visited my “temporary home” on WordPress for comments and discussion.
All text © Guylty at me + richard armitage, 2012. Please credit when using excerpts and links. Images and video copyrights accrue to their owners.