*ooof*: S_x on Legs, Against the Wall

Hello again. Have you noticed my absence? Ooooh, that is a loaded question that one should better not ask, in case of replies in the negative… Anyhow, I was away for a weekend in the beautiful, dramatic West of Ireland (see some impressions here and here) and when I got back I saw that a new image by Ascroft had popped up over the weekend. But by the time I saw it, I was already out of the loop and the image has already been discussed – albeit in slightly different context – by others. Maybe at a later stage I shall come back to it. But for now, and just because I like to be contrary, I will give you another Ascroft shot that I have been longing to pick apart analyse.

RA-RobertAscroft

I would’ve liked to have been a fly on *that* wall, says Guylty. And preferably at about bum height, straight behind *ahem*…
Richard Armitage shot by Robert Ascroft, 2012
Image sourced via RAnet.com

I have talked about the importance of the background in portraiture before – the choice of background is not coincidental and adds a layer of meaning to any image when it is discernably *not neutral*. And even though a wall is a wall is a wall, this background can hardly described as neutral. Some of that is due to its striking blue colour, but also to the texture and effect of the background. Our model has been placed in front of a brick wall. The wall must have been painted a few times, as evidenced by the peeling paint that reveals a coat of white paint under the blue and further down the red brick wall. It is only too fitting that the man standing in front of that flaky wall is dressed casually – in jeans and a white t-shirt. While contrast can work sometimes very well in fashion shoots (just imagine a formal dress modelled in front of a shabby chic, crumbling palazzo), it might look out of place to have Armitage dressed formally and placed in front of a decaying wall. Here, with his impressive arms exposed and casually dressed, the roughly textured background adds credibility and context to the look. While the background can be seen in detail, it nonetheless does not distract from the sitter. (The only thing I find mildly distracting is the fact that there is a line of slightly lighter peeling paint just above the head – but that is me being pedantic…)

The image, by the way, is definitely shot indoors. While the background might give you the impression that it is an outside wall, the shadows in the image give the lighting away. Ascroft has illuminated this shot with beauty lighting, i.e. the lightsource has been placed high up above the sitter, angled slightly onto his face, as visible in the tell-tale butterfly shadow under Armitage’s nose. This type of light is not called beauty light without a reason – not only is this used most frequently for beauty and fashion photography, but it also enhances the beauty of the sitter without much effort: By angling it from above onto the front of the sitter, it leaves very little shadow, lighting up the make-up in beauty photography and illuminating the clothes in fashion shots. At the same time it also very benignly drowns out lines and wrinkles. This is basically due to the laws of optics: The closer the subject is to the light source, the stronger he is lit up by the light. With the beauty light placed above the sitter, the light catches the forehead of the model first, effectively drowning out most of the lines. The photographer thus kills two stones with one bird (or the other way ’round) – a) he reduces his own post-production workload and b) he makes his vain model happy by making him look winkle-free(ish). (Excursus for photography nerds: Photographers use special equipment to create beauty light. The light contraption is fittingly called a “beauty dish” and consists of a flash light with a round, bowl-shaped hood. The inside of the hood is painted a reflective silver; the light source itself is covered with a disk. The light thus is deflected into the dish and then reflected by the sides of the hood and appears slightly diffused. It lights up the centre of the intended image and diffuses nicely into the edges of the frame. If you would like to see how it is used, click here  You can see evidence of Ascroft using a beauty dish in a shot of Ethan Hawke here.)

So here we have strong-man Armitage in a crumbling building. Has he just demolished a few brittle walls in a tenement and is taking a little break before returning to the sledgehammer? You’d be excused to be thinking that, but there is no evidence of even the smallest bead of sweat on Armitage’s immaculate forehead. Ah well, no he wouldn’t put his beautiful body to the service of building work. But as connoisseurs of l’Armitage‘s life we know that he has a penchant for DIY – how fitting is this portrait in the light of that??

Armitage’s pose is slightly defensive – with his arms folded in front of his chest, he is guarding his body from the gaze of the viewer. But the pose also serves another purpose. By holding his arms like this, Armitage involuntarily has to flex his biceps – and they bulge out nicely under the short arms of his t-shirt. We also get to see his hairy underarms, an unusual sight, as most of Armitage’s portraiture shows his arms fully covered to the wrist. Whatever for? This man has got beautiful arms, the charms of which female viewers will certainly respond to with a sigh, and which might also elicit muscle envy from a male viewer. They are evidence of Armitage’s fitness post-principal filming on The Hobbit, which finished in 2012. As we all know, Armitage trained extensively for his role as Thorin Oakenshield and was kept fit during filming even just by wearing his heavy costume. Also observe the perfect silhouette of the man with his narrow hips, and shoulders that are wider than the hips.

The overall message that this image communicates is that the sitter is a strong and fit man, a fine specimen. The “alpha male” vibe of the sitter is further enhanced by the facial expression that Armitage is sporting. While he is looking slightly downwards – I am coming to the point of believing that this is Armitage’s habitual pose; with his height he just towers over everyone almost all of the time – he by no means appears submissive. (Aside: His poor neck muscles must be so strained from constantly having to look down to everyone else – and the photographer in this case is obviously also a couple of inches shorter than Armitage, thus he looks slightly down while staring at the camera lens.) His gaze straight into the lens and the friendly open look in his eyes communicate confidence and comfort in the situation.

You may have personal preferences whether you like a man better dressed formally in a suit and shirt, or casually in jeans and t-shirt. In any case, an image like this has the ability to hit you straight in the ovaries. It displays the masculine attributes of the sitter perfectly – the exposed biceps, the hairy underarms, the V-line silhouette of narrow hips and wide shoulders, the hint of chest hair, just discernible in the V-necked t-shirt, the veins standing out on the back of his hand, the long thumb with its clipped nail. Do you feel the evocative pull of this image? It speaks to your heart much more than your brain. Or possibly more to your belly than your heart. Because which woman does not dream of a strong man, to hold and protect her with his powerful arms? Cavewoman is still very much alive in all of us! There is an unspoken promise of potency in this image, a latent sexual allure in the exposed skin, *despite* the otherwise completely non-sexual pose and context. This is sex on legs, leaning against the wall. Now, there is an idea… I bet you all thought about that, too. Ascroft gave you more than he bargained for. Or did he? We are grateful. Again.

~ by Guylty on April 23, 2013.

44 Responses to “*ooof*: S_x on Legs, Against the Wall”

  1. As I should have been asleep about four hours ago (messing about in PS with signs for the video production co.) I will simply say this: sex against a wall is just fine with me! Oops–i mean–the IMAGE of sex on legs leaning against the wall is just fine with me!! *I know, I know, straight to Naughty Corner*

    Me likee. A lot. Alpha male calling out to Inner Caveman loud and clear.

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    • Hehe, I knew I would get your attention by putting the word “sex” in there 😉 Harking back to Serv’s fantasy 2 post today – this picture also evokes the fantasy of some manly smells for me. A bit of rough’n’ready sweat. Earthiness. Real-ness. A different side to Armitage as manifested in photography, but certainly one that I very much like… The cavewoman has spoken 🙂

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  2. I personally don’t have the knowledge to analyse the photo but I definitely do appreciate it. Thank you, as you say ‘ooof’

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    • Thanks MoonRAker! Even if you don’t think you have the tools to analyse a pic – you certainly have a reaction. *ooof* is actually quite eloquent 🙂

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  3. I love this portrait for all the reasons cited, and then some. I wake up to this image every day, glad that I have eyes to see (and of course wanting more).

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  4. I was gobsmacked by this photo when I first saw it, and I remain so. Thanks for the insight on why that is so 😉 😉 I think you’re right about that inner cavewoman

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    • Yes. It feels awkward, admitting to that, but then again – that’s what we are. We react to what we see and we still operate (subconsciously) on so many instincts that hark back to caveman-time…

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  5. Amazing photos from Ireland,Guylty 🙂
    As for this photo above, there is no *ooof* for me because I don’t like the expression on model’s face…I see something around the mouth and eyes which suggests aloofness or even mockery…
    *sigh* clear signs of PMS,don’t you thik? 😉

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    • PMS on his account or yours? *hehe*.
      I always find it fascinating to hear that others interpret a facial expression completely different from me. You find him aloof, possibly distant and mocking; I find him friendly and “inclined” as in “leaning in towards the viewer to listen benignly”. Who knows what it all means. It’s an enigmatic expression, in that sense.
      Thanks for looking at the pics – glad you liked them!

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  6. Love the photo and your thoughtful and entertaining analysis. The cave woman inside grunts appreciatively. I just have one question. Do you have xray vision? I wouldn’t be surprised since you have super powers of observation. I have looked and looked and I cannot spot RA’s underarm hair peeking out from his t shirt. Did you mean forearm hair? Or do I need a new computer. Wouldn’t mind having an excuse to dump this one. Thank you again for sharing your expertise.

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    • OMG, how embarrassing. You are absolutely right – we are talking forearm hair, not underarm hair. Classic interference mistake – my native language is German. Thanks for correcting me! And thanks for your compliment!

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  7. Welcome. Rats, I guess I’ll have to keep the old computer a while longer.

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  8. Do you have a little photographer crush on Robert Ascroft? Great analysis as always – although the haircut is not my fave, your suggestions are not helping me conquer my developing “handyman” fantasy!! 🙂

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  9. I actually find this particular photo off-putting at first. For some reason, I’m reminded of West Side Story, a musical I absolutely loath from being forced to play in the orchestra pit for far more times than I ever wanted to and horrible West Side Story Medleys…When I saw this photo, that awful “I’m So Pretty” melody played in my head. And I swear that’s exactly the costume for the male voices in high school productions because everyone has jeans and white t-shirts are cheap.

    I like your analysis better!

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  10. Richard in a white t-shirt is always good in my book. I think if we had a close up of his face we would see that the blue on the wall would make his blue eyes pop out even more blue. I also like the that it is like a all manly pose, so strong. I have liked this picture since I first saw it, and it is everything that this girl likes.
    I also liked your photos of Ireland, the waterfall looks like it was a great spot to visit. The next time I go to England I know I must make time to visit Ireland too. One of my great grandmothers on my dads side is said to have come from Co. Cork.

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    • I am more into informally dressed guys, so the classic t-shirt/jeans combo quite appeals to me. Also, for some reason I am reminded of that iconic Marlon Brando image, the one that actually is responsible for t-shirts changing from underwear to an universally worn garment. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-K5F0D5ihgt8/TkFA4SYAc7I/AAAAAAAAK9g/pXIWRyCp_S8/s1600/marlon-brando-tshirt.jpg There, check that link – I think it is no coincidence that Ascroft set RA in scene like this, in that pose, with a t-shirt!!!
      Thanks for looking at my pics, Katie! Ireland is stunningly beautiful. I love my adopted country to bits. The waterfall was gorgeous – in a deep valley, wouldn’t have been out of place in the Hobbit, actually 🙂 If you can, you should definitely stop-over in Ireland at some stage. It is well worth visiting and in many ways different from England!

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  11. I love all the comments etc. {the pic’s not bad either!!!} and the pic’s of Ireland are beautiful……………..

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    • Thank you Meryl 🙂 I appreciate that you took the time to read and to click through to my pics. It is wonderful when I get to share my work – what good are images if they are not looked at…

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  12. Great analysis of the photo. This cavewoman heartily approves of this photo! 😉

    GuyIty, your photos from Ireland are beautiful. It’s a country that I want to travel to one day soon.

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    • Thanks, Little Red, for looking and commenting! I think we should plan a little cavewoman convention. Ireland incedentally has some really deep dark caves 😉

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  13. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes – I just noticed the links to your photos or Ireland – gorgeous! My husband’s mother is from Ireland (I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know from which county she hails – I’ll ask when I talk to her next!) I missed my chance to come this summer 😦 Maybe next time…

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    • Hehe, slow on the uptake or not – I am laughing here about the synchronicity of our commenting. While you were commenting here, I was composing a reply to your post on Ancient Armitage. Telepathy or what?
      Oh, you should really take the opportunity to visit Ireland. It is beautiful and its people are friendly. And even better when you have family here. Plus an opportunity for RTRLRA fangirling (real-time real life RA) with moi 😉 You can’t refuse *that*!!!

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      • We could collaborate face to face on a certain photo project 😉 I will definitely find a way to tag along with the school trip next time – I’ll have to bone up on prehistoric Ireland to validate my presence! I’ve never met most of my husband’s extended family, but I adore my MIL..especially when her brogue goes into full force (usually followed by some combination of expletives 🙂 )

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        • Had to LOL there – extensive swearing is a typically Irish trait… Listen, there is loooooooads of pre-Christian, Celtic art in Ireland *ggg*. It’ll take you weeeeeks to see it all. You so have to go on a study trip here, indispensable, really. Now, how do we get Armitage to come to Ireland at the same time? 😉

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          • Game of Thrones?

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            • *eeeeeeeeeeeek* – OMG, you are so right, Obscura! Of course. If they put that on here again…

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              • I am so far behind – I’ve only seen a couple of episodes in total. Peter Dinklage was just on the Daily Show promoting season 3 the other day…is that the final season? I’d love to see RA stomping around with a sword (as if we won’t get enough of that in TH3) 🙂

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                • To my shame – I have only seen clips of it. It’s not on Irish TV and I do not watch much anyway. Well, I only watch when there is an incentive *ahem*. As far as I know they are doing a fourth season, though, so no end in sight yet. They might be in need of a new strong, handsome Lord to shake things up a bit.

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                  • We dropped our satellite service a while back, so we stream everything but local channels…I think 1 & 2 are available on Amazon here, so Mr. Obscura and I are putting it on the agenda (and the budget) for this summer. (I have to catch up since he’s already seen the 1st season – insomniac…he sees just about everything before me 🙂 ) I am an HBO series addict – they generally do such a good job with them. This is where I’d like to see an R3 project go – a series/mini series – enough time and budget…

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  14. […] chic armchair, he placed the casually dressed Armitage in front of a wall with peeling paint in various poses, he had him perch in front of a window, and he took him outdoors on the street in a coat. Dunn did […]

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  15. […] of his subjects. A photographer with a classic and classy approach. ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof […]

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