*ooof*: A Tête-à-tête with Armitage

Disclaimer: I am not switching back to an old image of Armitage for purely selfish reasons – the un-bearded look *sighs* – but because I am keeping up the biceps theme here, ladies. And the Richard “Ambrosia” Armitage theme, too, as this image presents RA looking very young and youthful.

JCanning-101

A friendly and relaxed Armitage in a series of shots by J Canning, 2008.
Sourced via RAnet.com

An image from the 2008 shoot with J Canning, of which we can see a wonderful long series in the archives at RAnet.com. Armitage must have spent a whole day shooting with Canning that time, with several outfit changes and different locations thrown in, too. It is one of my favourite shoots (although I will concede that Richard was looking very, very slim too skinny back then – done in the run-up to Spooks 7, probably), and part of my penchant for the images by J Canning goes back to the fact that so many of the images are available to us. The photographer in me rejoices – it is fabulous when you get to see a number of variations on the same theme, because you get an insight into the progression of a professional photo shoot and into the process of editing. The latter is only true to some degree, as the final images that have seen the light of day RAnet’s archive are obviously the cream of the crop while all the total duds have been confined to the virtual dustbin. Nonetheless, from the available images you can glean how the shoot was conducted – you can observe how the photographer directed the model, how he experimented with different perspectives, focal lengths, lighting and backgrounds, and how the photographer and the sitter worked together on creating the best possible images.

That is apparent in all nine different locations/set-ups that were used during the shoot. There is no telling in which sequence the images were shot – maybe Ali uploaded them in the same sequence as the file naming suggests, maybe it is pure coincidence. I would encourage you to surf over to RAnet and have a look at the shoot. Just scroll through it quickly and check how the photographer tries different things. The only constant apart from his gorgeous sitter who looks unfailingly hot in each and every shot, is the consistent lighting and depth of field in most images. Canning obviously has a preference here, with soft lighting and shallow depth of field, caused by a wide open aperture. How boring – you might say. But no, not boring, not safe, not unadventurous. The fact that Canning keeps these parameters consistent is neither due to lack of photographic experience or lack of artistic imagination, there is a good reason for adhering to the same photographic style. He was shooting images for a (fashion?) editorial – I presume (on the basis not only of the outfit changes, but also the fashionable-ness of the clothes at a time pre-Ilaria, to put it delicately). An editorial is a series of images for inclusion in a magazine. And while the sitters or clothes or locations may change in the images, they ought to be stylistically consistent in order to appear as *one* body of work.  – For the sake of the argument, contrast this with Ascroft’s recent series of RA images. They are all brilliant on their own and they also feature a number of different locations and set-ups. And yet they vary in terms of photographic style and therefore would not appear connected like an editorial. Individual images might work well together – you could, for instance, imagine an editorial comprising the large format full-length portrait, and the two b/w portraits – the b/w format is the common denominator. You might comprise a series from the brown-backgrounded images and even throw in the suburban James Dean (the “sex on legs”-*ooof*) and Richard Alphatage, last week’s *ooof*, too. And the window-sill decoration plus the outdoor images might sit together, too. But mix these up and they don’t really complement each other. Unlike the images from the Canning shoot, which are all compatible, whether they are shot in-studio, on location or outside.

The real reason, however, why I have chosen this image today is that I want to continue with something that I touched upon in my impromptu, gratuitous, drool-*ooof* from last week. If you remember I briefly talked about the composition of the image and how the pose of the sitter was a major part of that, with an invisible line leading your eye from Richard’s left foot along his leg across his [censored] crotch past his right cheek. This image here will blow you away when you discover the various compository lines in it. So put in your eye drops, girls, this is gonna be one long, straining exercise for your eye muscles! I stopped identifying the gaze lines when I reached 10. And what I found out really floored me. Rather than me explaining every single one of them for you, have a look at the gif I made for you:

Primary (bold) and secondary sight lines – a bit of abstract art?

Mind-blowing. At least for a photography geek like me. Coincidence? No way! Somebody was composing the image in his mind and posed the sitter accordingly. Now, the sight lines do not always appear quite as parallel as I have made out in my gif. I have corrected them  with a bit of photographic licence for the sake of the argument. And because I was highly amused when I saw where the major overlap occurs. Have you checked? Yep, be careful you don’t get blinded, metaphorically, by your discovery. This is Crotch Central. Who would’ve thought. *tuttuttut* Canning, what were you doing thinking of??? The rule of thirds, evidently.

Some of these sight line analyses are rather academic. They do not necessarily prove that the viewer *will* actually follow (all) the lines when first encountering the image. You may just zoom in on the eyes, you may be permanently way-laid by the chest or you may never get beyond the biceps in the foreground. But what you can take from my little visualisation of the various lines is that the sitter has been deliberately posed in such a way that a) his head is in the top right rectangle, b) his shoulders touch the top third-line intersections with the vertical third-lines, c) limbs have been arranged in the bottom third. This is a pleasing composition for a half-length portrait in that it challenges the viewer to move the gaze, and in that it deviates from predictable symmetry. In short – it gives the viewer more food for drooling thought than a straight-on head-in-the-middle kind of shot. While I doubt that Canning sat down the night before the shoot and devised the pose with a piece of graph paper and a ruler, it is nonetheless a deliberate and planned pose. It may have come from coincidence in so far as the sitter was arranging himself on the bed while the photographer set up the camera . And *booom* the stars aligned and a sun was born. An experienced photographer sees this when she looks through the viewfinder of her camera. And she will correct the likely deviations in the sitter’s pose by asking him to move his chin up, angle his arm differently and hunch the shoulders back…

As for the interpretation of the picture, let’s pretend that this is not a fashion shoot but purely a portrait of RA. The image does speak to me strongly. Most of that is due to the friendly facial expression. F*ck that – it’s due to RA being in the picture, full stop, as simple as that. Except it doesn’t make a universally convincing argument outside the Armitage Army. Hm. The smile looks genuine in that not only his mouth is smiling but his eyes are “in a happy place”, too. There is also a certain immediacy to the shot – Armitage’s upper lip is curled very slightly in such a way that suggests he was actually about to say something. I love details like that because I approve of and prefer a shoot in which the photographer lets her subject engage through natural, incidental movement. Ultimately, that approach represents a subject far more faithfully than a “hold that pose”-direction.

The pose itself is actually quite intimate in that Armitage is sitting informally. He is slightly hunched, and thus looks comfortable and relaxed. (I hate nothing more than contrived poses where you can tell that the sitter is straining all available muscles to keep a particular pose. It is forced and strained and shows, somehow.) Moreover, Armitage leaning forward and looking at the camera gives the impression that he is in an intimate one-to-one chat with someone, and boy is it easy to put oneself into *that* picture. The inclusion of his bare arms with the emphasis on the well trained right biceps and then that tiny little detail of a visible vain on his forearms gives the image a little kick of  sexuality sensuality – there is the usual connotation of strength and power conveyed in this, which tickles my aesthetic appreciation libido. It makes me want to reach out and touch that arm, feel the muscle underneath the smooth skin, to tease and admire simultaneously. It doesn’t help oh, it does help *my imagination* a lot, thank you very much that Armitage is holding his arms in such a way that he is creating a circle with his chest, two arms and joined hands between his legs.  As for the upper thighs, just about visible/imaginable, combined with the open-legged pose – am I the only one who’d like to sit on that lap, encircled in those arms? Rhetorical question. I can imagine the answer. Join the queue, ladies. I saw it first!

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 May 7, 2013.

25 Responses to “*ooof*: A Tête-à-tête with Armitage”

  1. *joins queue* Great *ooof*, Guylty. Now I know why I like this shot 😉

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  2. bahahahaha! Goodness my eyes just got quite the work out!

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  3. Your explanations are fascinating as ever, Guylty, and you brought me to see many more lines than the one’s I would have imagined. Though I hesitate to paint them into the picture to preserve the wonderful image. So I really appreciate your sacrifice ;o) 😉

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    • Very true, C, I have committed an act of blasphemy, crisscrossing those lines over Richard 🙂 I hope I won’t be expelled from the army 😉 But yes, all in the name of education and deeper appreciation! Thanks for commenting!

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  4. I love your dedication an commitment to education and scholarship! 🙂 Thanks for the gif – it makes it much easier for my brain to see what you’re referring to.

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    • Once an educator – always an educator. (I was a secondary school teacher in one of my previous lives…) just can’t resist sharing knowledge. Hehe, I’m sure you know what that feels like 😉

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  5. Ah-ha! 😀 I would like to tell you that I’ve never looked at his crotch…but my nose should not be any bigger BTW,is he sitting on bed ,or what?
    I must call it conspiRAcy!
    Hilarious and much needed *ooof*, Guylty:) Thanks!

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    • Yep, I think it is a bed, if I remember correctly from the rest of that shoot. Really adds to the fantasy *ahem* added to that the innocent cheerful smile = deadly combination!

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  6. Absolutely astonishing analysis and insight. I’m going to read it again.

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  7. Very…um…eye-opening diagram.
    I’m loving the crossed out commentary! Lol!

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  8. Here from sunny and in the 70’s Wisconsin today (hard to believe we where in another snow storm 5 days ago) with almost all the snow gone and enjoying another “ooof”. Blue eyes lovely blue eyes. A little stubble and a black shirt he looks great. Time for a couple hours sleep on a great view.

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  9. I really enjoyed this and was happy that you addressed both composition and the angles — as I think you know the angles and lines are the things I always notice first in photographs of Armitage …

    that said, this wasn’t my favorite shoot, I think precisely because his face was so slim. I have to think a bit more about why that would but me.

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  10. YUM. I love this era of Armitage images. There’s something very youthful and sweet about him at this stage. (Insert obligatory “LET ME LOVE YOU!!!!!” here.)

    And look at you, Guylty, getting giffy with it! All that time on tumblr was not wasted! (LOLOLOLOL)

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    • LOL – yes, that’s about as far as my gif-art goes. And it’s not really tumblr-relevant – no smouldering, bum-smacking hotness in my red lines. – I like that shoot, too. Youthful and sweet is exactly what it is.

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  11. […] me of a number of other shots of Armitage that have been taken by a variety of photographers (click, click, […]

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  12. […] Canning has done a good bit of TV set work. His imagery is colourful and sharply focussed. ooof  ooof ooof […]

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