*ooof*: Armitage is Good for You

Extraordinary times need extraordinary measures. In the age of slow torture release of new photogRAphic material, Guylty’s First Response Unit is at the Ready with a special edition of your weekly *ooof*. A caveat at the beginning: This *ooof* will be a little different in that I am looking at two pictures instead of one. That is due to me being utterly unable to decide which one to analyse. They affected appeal to me both equally – and from your response I could see that a lot of you felt the same. Plus: The two of them together work interestingly well.

Over the weekend, two more images were released from the seemingly never-ending stream of photos from the Ascroft session. I am as baffled as you are when it comes to the slow release of these images. It leaves the question who is responsible for publishing them, who owns them and what the strategy behind the trickling release is. I have no answer to that, as the photos seem to appear on a Russian fan-site, from where they make their way onto Tumblr and then spread through the fandom within hours, if not minutes.Β  The fact that there are so many photos in Ascroft’s stash does not surprise me at all. A photo shoot will produce hundreds, if not thousands of images, and with a sitter as photogenic professional as RA, there are bound to be hundreds of useable images within that stash. Ascroft’s portfolio page, however, still only shows six images from his shoot with RA – a representative selection of the images, showing all different set-ups except for the armchair series.

Generally, the rights to a photograph always belong to the creator of the image, i.e. the photographer, regardless of who the initial remitter of the shoot was. That right remains with her even when she sells individual images to other people. By buying the image, however, the client also acquires certain, clearly defined rights to the image – i.e. the agreement for sale stipulates where and how the images may be used (for instance “for publication on web media” or “for publication in print”) and for how long or how often. The fees differ accordingly. In that sense, the subject of a photo shoot sometimes has no rights to their image at all. Photographers have to make their sitters aware of that by having them sign what is called a “model release form” – and usually models are remunerated with a once-off fee for their participation. In the case of the RA photos that is unlikely – Armitage did not really act as a “model”, and the pictures are clearly not fashion images but portraits shot for illustrating editorials. A couple of them have washed up in magazines (one window sill image and one of the steel wall background).

Before I delve into the individual analyses, a word on the course of the photo shoot (with a nod to Obscura who asked how long this may have taken).Β  Ballpark: four to five hours. But very difficult to tell because it depends on many factors, most of which I have no way of knowing about. I know nothing about Ascroft’s habits when shooting – does he shoot hundreds of pictures or is he so confident that he calls it quits after 50 shutter releases? Does he have a large studio at his disposal where all his (recurring) set-ups are already in situ and don’t need individual assembly? How many assistants has he got on set to help him with technical set-up, and with the actual shooting? Does he get side-tracked into chatting?

I am basing my estimation on the fact that there are eight distinct set-ups in the whole RARA shoot: 1) window sill Armitage, 2) blue steel (-door) Armitage, 3) white blown out background Armitage 4) armchair Armitage, 5) seated Armitage on box, 6) peeling paint-job Armitage, 7) shadowplay Armitage and 8) outdoor Armitage. Ascroft is an experienced photographer and he knows how to set-up his individual scenes. Judging by the recurring style of his images, he probably has all the technicalities already down to a tee, knows where the lights are placed, which aperture to shoot at and how he wants to compose the images.Β  That makes the whole process much quicker. A quick light-reading, and off he goes. For the costume changes and make-up adjustment I would factor in a generous 15 minutes per set-up – including a cup of tea every once in a while. With tethered shooting (where the images are sent straight from the camera to the computer at which an assistant literally “calls the shots”) he could have his images in the bag within 15 minutes. So, 30 minutes per set-up = four hours. That would also fit into the busy schedule of a capricious celebrity who may not want to pose for a whole day. – Mind you, it could easily be double that time. There’s always something that goes wrong when shooting, or maybe Ascroft has the habit of shooting 250 images per set-up, regularly puts the camera down to continue a conversation with his extraordinarly interesting sitter and/or to give out to his slaves assistants. Or his diva sitter wants to censor check every single photo that has been taken, is uncooperative and needs constant ego-massaging coaxing and frequent potty breaks.

Can you imagine being in front of the camera for four hours at a stretch? Always the single subject, literally always in focus, always concentrated, always reacting to the directions of the photographer, contorting yourself, while appearing to look your personal best? It is hard work. And in Armitage’s case also different to the work of an actor because it involves being still, communicating with pose and poise alone. A photo shoot is incredibly intense for all those participating in it, the photographer included. Whether I am shooting myself or working as an assistant – even after a photo session that only lasts an hour, I usually feel exhausted to the point of longing for a nap. And that is not due to the physical labour that is involved (carrying sandbags for stabilising flash stands, moving lights, readjusting backdrops, holding reflectors, assembling props) but the mental exertion of being 100 percent focussed on the creating of an image. It’s a multi-tasking job for all concerned – constant action-reaction, adjusting, moving, holding…

And yet the two newly emerged images make it look so good. Well, with Armitage in the shot, what can go wrong? Let’s look at Blue Steel, first.

RA RobertAscroft-07

Evasive and fashionable – Richard Armitage in a shot by Robert Ascroft
Image Sourced via RAnet.com

This is the latest in a series of shots that were taken in front of what looks like a steel/metal wall. The background is grey-blueish in colour, and the whole colour cast of the image has a blue tint. I find it difficult to determine what colour Armitage’s outfit is – is this charcoal grey or black? In order to make his sitter stand out from the similarly coloured background, Ascroft has to use strong light in this image. You can see that he is not using a softbox – or if he does, he has a honeycomb grid that directs the light stongly – by the dark shadow that appears to the left of Armitage on the background. Otherwise the light has been directed in such a way, that very little shadow is visible on RA himself. A low-contrast image such as this is always intended to stay in colour format. (In order to have an evocative b/w image, the photographer would create strong contrasts between light and dark in his frame. That is not the case here.)

Although I have often professed my preference for b/w images, this particular portrait of Armitage loudly speaks to me, nonetheless – despite something in the pose that I would call a “fashion mood”. Armitage is photographed straight-on while he is leaning against the background. He has his left hand in his trouser pocket and crosses his left leg over his right. By placing his hand in the pocket, his jacket is pushed aside, exposing the waistband and crotch area of his trousers to the view. It is as if the clothes are more important than the face. This impression for me is exacerbated by the fact that the sitter has turned his face away from the camera. Armitage is looking to the right and down. The portrait takes on an air of evasiveness – the sitter is not looking into our eyes. Does he have something to hide? Is he a mystery man? While our mind is set in motion, the evasiveness suddenly becomes intriguing. As he defies our searching gaze, we stare all the more intensely. And the details all of a sudden take on more emphasis: We notice the pleasing curve of the jawline, the delicate fan of the eyelashes caught in the light, the exposed skin of the neck and the evidence of the major turn-on chest hair.

For me this is a particularly evocative image, because evasiveness by its nature leaves the questions open. And isn’t that something that equally intrigues and frustrates us? We strive to know more about the man. But he eludes us – deliberately. He gives little away. He turns away his face so that we cannot search his eyes for answers. His facial expression is hard to read – is that a little frown on his forehead, or is he merely concentrating? But the evasiveness is a challenge that amplifies our curiosity. And possibly our imagination. The less interpretative hints we are given in an image, the faster the wheels of our imagination turn. I leave the details up to you, ladies.

RobertAscroft-23

The Return of the UNF – RARA roaaaarrrrr.
Richard Armitage by Robert Ascroft (2012)
Image via RAnet.com

The second image, seems to be diametrically opposite to that – in many ways. Where Blue Steel Armitage was almost cerebral, Seated Armitage becomes animal. Here, Armitage faces us directly. He does not avoid our gaze but stares right back. His styling is informal, with the skimpiness of his t-shirt and tightness of his jeans leaving much less to imagination than the lose fitting clothes of Blue Steel. This (for me) is UNF personified – as I so extraordinarily eloquently already expressed in my previous *ooof*: Richard Alphatage . [Lighting, set-up and general photographic effects are all identical to the previously analysed image, so I’ll skip that here.] Only that I actually like this image even better than the Alphatage one: It’s the friendlier look on his face. I am amazed, actually, by the fact that Armitage does not smile – and yet to me he *does*. It could be the catchlight in his left eye, that gives it a twinkle – a sign of amusement.

Where Blue Steel hit me in the cerebrum with all the questions unanswered, this hits me in the ovaries because of all the answers. The exposed forearms, the bulging biceps, the broad shoulders and chest, the narrow waist and hips, the lean legs. And most deliciously of all – the pose, leaning in to the viewer. The possibilities of Blue Steel become a fact in Seated Armitage. What I imagined beneath the sitter’s formal wear is now corroborated in the appearance of the second image’s casual wear. This interpretation, of course, relies solely on the presentation of the two images together in a certain order.

But this is what good imagery does: It gets your juices flowing. Possibly in a rather tangible way, if you pardon me this little excursion below the waistline. Images such as these are not just aesthetically pleasing but they speak to left and right side of your brain. They pose questions, tease us with a few supplied answers, but they still provide room for interpretation. They mirror life to a certain extent, but they also withhold information in order to uphold some mystique. They require the reaction of the viewer and make us an active participant in this interaction. We do not simply consume, but we bring our own thoughts to the table. Viewing images, thus, is never a passive pastime, but an active process. So next time your significant other teases you for ogling an image of your favourite eye-candy, you can lean back and smugly inform them, that you are engaged in an interactive brain exercise. This is not drooling. This is working out the grey muscle. Looking at RARA images should be made compulsory. ‘Cos Armitage is good for you!

~ by Guylty on May 26, 2013.

116 Responses to “*ooof*: Armitage is Good for You”

  1. Oh my! I was hoping you would *ooof* one or both of these new photos. That you did them in juxtaposition is perfect! I was especially grabbed by what you said about the second photo answering the questions raised in the first. Yes! These are amazing companion pieces to each other.

    I just hope we can all survive when/if more RARA photos hit the web. It has been the very best sort of torture, but I get the idea that our collective fortitude is wearing thin. (Not that I want them to stop. Oh no.)

    Thank you for another great analysis!

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    • As usual, my reading is just *one* POV of an endless number of such. I kind of got sidetracked into some peripheral issues rather than doing a full-blown analysis on the individual pics. Well, with the seated RA it was difficult to find much new to say, seeing that I had already analysed that to death recently. So, I am glad this finds your approval. πŸ™‚
      As for more images hitting the net – I think that we will eventually become a bit tired of RARA. We have seen the 8 set-ups in a number of variations by now, and although I swoon over the imagery, I am beginning to hunger for a fresh POV. Someone else’s interpretation of RA, in a different style. I still believe that Ascroft produces fabulous stuff, of course, but after a few months of RARA something different might prove interesting, too.

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      • I’ve been curious about the sourcing of these, too, so thanks for telling us what you know. Stuff that appears *first* on the Russian site is usually stuff where the rights holder is not immediately clear (or sometimes ever). Not saying that is necessarily case for everything there, but there’s stuff there where the rights situation is questionable at best. It will be interesting to see what happens now that yahoo has purchased tumblr, what will happen with tumblr. I don’t know any of the Russian fans at all, have never had a conversation, but I do know that they’re regularly scouring the web for pictures. So if I had a picture that I wanted to put out there, I’d put it in one of the places that I knew they were likely to search, and then wait for them to pick it up. Since many / most of the pics since last Fall have been created for sale to media outlets, it’s been really interesting to me that afaik none of these have gotten to us with a watermark on them. In other words, I do have the general impression that these are being doled out to us — by a source unknown. I confess it makes me feel uneasy / manipulated.

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        • I didn’t want to say it myself, but I think one of the reasons why these images surface where they do, is, that it seems to be considerably harder to police copyrights over there.
          The fact that they are unwatermarked: Could a) just be someone being particularly good with Ps and deleting them (although usually you notice traces) or b) someone buying them and possibly disregarding licence rules. ONLY possibilities. I am not saying that is the case. Copyright on the internet is a murky area, one way or another.
          I have to admit I am quite happy to be manipulated this way. I think, as long as you are aware of possible manipulation, you are already (half-)immune to it…

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          • I figured that you have looked so closely at these that you would have noticed the traces of a watermark — πŸ™‚ where I wouldn’t necessarily.

            I’m tense about my participation in the marketing machine, even as I accept that that’s a cost of doing business …

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            • I am immune to some forms of marketing (used to work in the field for a few years, way back) and otherwise recklessly enjoy what I can get from it while trying to withhold what they want from me. But am simultaneously a very naive, open person – so I am probably not noticing half the manipulation I am subjected to. Which is why I rely on more analytical minds like yours to point out dangers…

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              • It’s not so much the dangers of falling victim to it (caveat emptor, Armitage fans, we’re all adults) but more the superstitious feelings I have about what this blog brings me. I don’t want to be part of the Richard Armitage marketing machine on that level, i.e., I don’t want to be a marketer. I recognize that I am. But I’d rather not be.

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                • Of course!! Egocentric me did not cop on to *those* dangers at all. You are right, of course, in that sense any blog, and particularly one with a high profile like me+r, will easily fall prey to marketing strategies. I’m afraid there is nothing to prevent that. By discussing Richard we are inadvertently keeping his name out there, too. It’s in the nature of the beast.

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  2. Thanks for you explanations, as always. And thanks for the good excuse you gave us for ogling RA’s images. It’s for research, for science, for my little grey cells πŸ˜€

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    • Yeah, some of us *need* excuses :-D. More for ourselves than for outside justification. At least that is how explain my involvement to my own self…

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      • yep, more for ourselves than for others, I perfectly agree πŸ˜‰

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      • you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love it yourself, no matter how much appreciation you garner from us πŸ™‚

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        • Oh, I love it, no matter what. It is all the sweeter to find that others enjoy it, too. (I have always found it easier to be part of a herd. Or an Army…)

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  3. Thanks so much for this extra *ooof*, guylty. Love the info about the shoot process. I was trying to figure out how long it would take. Can’t imagine doing that for 4 hours! I have a question – why didn’t Ascroft take pictures of the costume changes? *_* Would have provided some interesting shots, I’m sure….

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    • [computer ate my reply earlier, apologies, Marie] Hahaha, I love your question, Marie. You know what – occasionally that kind of stuff *is* documented. A lot of photographers shoot little accompanying “making of”s, nowadays, often in film format. – I know, you had something else in mind, entirely. Well, maybe we need to petition someone to get Arrmitage to pose on the beach. Or as an underwear model? Not sure if I’d be able to *ooof* such resulting images, though *sweats just thinking of that* πŸ˜‰

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  4. Oof, unf, etc… Ad infinitum. Omg. Greetings from rainy Vermont.

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  5. Thanks, Guylty- great analysis as always and interesting background informations!

    On a very subjective level, and I know I might be the only one, I don’t like the Ashcroft pictures at all. Technically brilliant, but I think not one of the pictures shows us even the tiniest glimpse of the real RA. His expression is rather bland, emotionless, even if in one of the pictures there’s a hint of a smile, it never reaches his eyes. Even when he stares full front into the camera, his expression remains somehow vacant.

    He’s perfect in playing the role of a model and I think you can see that Ashcroft has done lots of shoots for fashion magazines and advertisements. Lots of photoshopping involved as well- e.g. I don’t like it at all when they remove his little scar on the forehead or his crinkles.

    Presumably this aloofness was intention on the part of Ashcroft ( I wonder sometimes if he is more interested in the background and overall composition than in really portraying his sitter..), but for me the whole shoot somehow misses ” soul”.

    As I said, this is just my personal impression, but the pictures don’t touch me at all, however aesthetically brilliant they might be.

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    • Oh dear, this is what I had been waiting for and now I dare to come out of the bushes.
      Everyone always got so excited when new Ashcroft-photos appeared that I seriously thought something is very wrong with me. I have stuffed my personal folders with dozens of RA pics that I cannot look at often enough. Some of them (or better most of them) move me deeply and do touch a soft spot in me (a spot only recently discovered).
      But I really loathe the pictures of Robert Ashcroft and I can only second every single sentence of Nimue.
      I could never get enough of the pictures of Victoria Will for example. Or the newer ones from Sydney (ignore ugly brown retro leather jacket from the 80s). They are so much more lively and *real*.
      Or the even older ones. Or the ones from the Spooks/N+S/-era. Or mostly all other ones.
      For me there is something wrong with the Ashcroft shots.
      Sorry. Please do not shoot the messenger.

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      • I will never shoot a messenger who comes to me having respectfully discussed my opinion – you are welcome to comment and express your disagreements, i.f., and I thank you for it :-). There is nothing wrong with you for disliking the Ascroft images. Maybe there is something wrong with me for getting so excited about these rather sanitised versions of a flawed individual??? I get carried away when I see perfect technique employed in the depiction of a handsome man. It probably clouds my vision a little bit. But as with Nimue – I am with you on the issue of immediacy and reality. Again – hope you tune in on Tuesday when I delve into that particular topic for the next *ooof*.

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      • Thanks for the comment, i.f., and welcome.

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    • Hi Nimue, thanks for expressing your opinion. I welcome discussion – especially if it is backed up the way you do it. And you know what – I cannot prove you wrong. I understand where you are coming from. There is an element of over-aestheticising in Ascroft’s imagery. Form over funtion? I wouldn’t go as far as calling Armitage’s expression vacant, but it is decidedly neutral. What that does, however, is it allows us to project onto it.
      I am with you on the issue of photoshopping lines and scars – unnecessary. But common practice in this kind of photography. This is NOT press photography, this is NOT a documentary type of image. It is more related to art than to documentary. (or that’s how I would explain it).
      The Wills images were favourites of mine, too. They are the result of a photo call and therefore much more “immediate” than the polished product that Ascroft produces. If you bear with me, I have already written and scheduled my next *ooof* which will touch on that issue. Next Tuesday.

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      • Dear guylty, looking forward to next Tuesday. I find your *ooofs* always very insightful and learn a lot from them!

        I completely understand where you are coming from, too. And the pictures are aesthetically pleasing, no doubt about that.
        It’s just that for me that for me they are more about ” the outer shell”, Richard seems to me to serve here more as a kind of ” empty canvas”, where everybody can project their dreams, hopes, wishes etc.on.
        I miss the glimpses of his own personality here, the sparkle in his eyes…- that other pictures manage to convey much better ( the Wills images among others, as you already mentioned).

        But, as I said, that’s my subjective preference.

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        • Subjective is ok. *My* analysis is subjective, too, at least when it comes to the interpretation of them and my very own reaction to them. I would hope that my little excursions into the theory and practicalities of photography are objectively correct though. Again, informed by my own experience of my profession, but based on the facts of lens-based image-making.
          Re. “the outer shell” – I think that is actually a good way of describing it. I do not disagree with that at all. There is more emphasis on the outward beauty in these images than on a glimpse of personality. Interestingly, I believe there is more personality in the evasive Blue Steel image than in the dead-pan seated portrait – despite the turned-away head. But Ascroft does also do personality – I think the b/w portrait, where I talked about “soul” is a good example of conveying something more than just beauty.
          I really look forward to the next round of press junkets – just to see how other photographers interpret Armitage.

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      • I think in some ways they’re a technically much better / enhanced aesthetic version of Armitage’s CV headshot with the zombie eyes. They’re supposed to let you think he could be anybody.

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        • A foil. Or an ideal. For commercial consumption – I freely admit that it works very well on me.

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          • Even if Ashcroft’s intention was to mystify him as a kind of modern male Mona Lisa, it just doesn’t work with me. If these had been the first pictures I’d had seen of him, I would have never been attracted to him. Handsome, but missing a certain ” Je ne sais quoi ” – the charisma, that makes him unforgettable.

            I’d really be interested in your opinion about the Vera Anderson images. Harsh lightening, red background is not optimal and everything looks much more improvised – but I find these images much more expressive and endearing.

            http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/NYHobbitPromo/album/slides/WaldorfAstoria-VeraAnderson-01.html

            As is the case with the Victoria Will pictures- maybe female
            photographers have a greater tendency to go below the mere surface πŸ˜‰ ?

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            • Nimue, you are a star! You know what – I never even *knew* those Vera Anderson images existed!!! Or any of the others from the same photo call. [How bad a fan am I???] That is, I have seen them before, on Tumblr, but just from the way they looked they screamed “screen cap” at me. Just as a quick response: The reason those images are more “personality” is that they are more animated. There is movement and unposed facial expression. They are documentary, truly, I think. I shall have to pick one and give it the *ooof* treatment – I can see how that could be very interesting, so thanks for a really good suggestion, Nimue!
              Re. first encounter images: That is actually a really interesting topic. I can see how viewers can be put off RA when seeing him first in these shots – too polished, too beautiful – too blank, read “dumb”??? [deliberately provocative here]. One of the first images I ever saw of him (after “discovering” him on N&S) was my first *ooof* – which is also rather polished (starry background, black on black, arm behind his head).
              Re. female photographers: Yes, I think they bring something to the table that a male photographer does not have (and it has less to do with sexual orientation than with empathy). I certainly liked what Wills did. Parrish was slightly more on the art side of things with her textured approach. There was another female photographer whose work I liked, but I can’t remember her name right now.

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            • The purpose of those pictures is different, though, isn’t it? Ah, I see Guylty has answered.

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  6. This is not (really) a comment.
    I just wanted to express my gratefulness for your efforts to provide us ladies (and the other ones) with your inside knowledge of the art of photography, and call our attention to the delicate details we would otherwise never be able to enjoy consciously.
    Since several months now I follow your posts (and those of the great Servetus) and your *oofs are always eagerly awaited, to be immediately and highly enjoyed when I find them in my inbox – and by no means I take them for granted. Thank you. So. Much.

    To be honest I have never given a single thought to the big amount of work that is behind a portrait shot. And it never occurred to me that this might be in fact really *hard* work – for all people involved. I always had the impression it is all about stepping in front of the camera, smile or don’t smile, move or don’t move just as you are told to. The magic of the photographer (or photoshop) will manage to produce the real art. And having a sitter who is attractive and photogenic is more than half of the deal.
    Hmmm, seems to be I was (once again) really wrong. So once again thanks a lot for your informative and entertaining lesson in how this business works. Since lurking around Armitageworld I have learnt a big deal about all kinds of things I never paid attention to before.
    This is all about education. I do appreciate it. And I enjoy it.

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    • Oh, i.f. – you again πŸ™‚ The sequence is slightly jumbled up. Thank you for your kind words. I have huge fun “educating” those who are not in the know about photography. It is a complex business, and working in it is one of the most exciting things I have ever done in my life. Before I involved myself in this world, I was like you. My opinion and knowledge of the world of photography was informed by my own amateur snapping – which is much like you describe: The photographer clicks – the sitter grins. Or the other way round. – I have been on both sides of the camera (a very valuable lesson for a photographer!), and it is decidedly hard work to transform the direction into the pose. And to hold the pose or to adjust it. You make my day by telling me that you found this useful! Thanks – and you are welcome to disagree with me any time!!!

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      • Thanks a lot for your kind response. Be sure I will be one of the first ones to read the upcoming *oof and I am already curious what it will be about and really looking forward to see it.
        And I promise I will try my best to look at the future *oofs from the artistic angle (too) to understand the excitement on and enjoyment of the artsy aspect, and appreciate the professional photoshopping and flattening of every scratch and wrinkle.
        I am by no way neutral or objective when it comes to a certain British actor – so for me it is very hard to figure out why someone would like to correct *flaws* on him. Isn’t he already perfect? *sigh

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        • I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t think a man of Armitage’s calibre needs smoothing out of lines. The press photos from various red carpet events over the last few years always show him “warts and all” – and they only emphasise his handsomeness. I have always found the laughter wrinkles endearing. Yes, a sign of age. But also a sign of a cheerful personality. What’s not to love?
          I am really hoping for some more “real life” imagery in the future to satisfy readers like you, who prefer the documentary approach. Or if you have a particularly favourite image, don’t hesitate to tell me via comment or mail – I am always happy to take up suggestions. And if it is of an image that I had not considered, myself, all the better – it forces me to take a closer look.

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          • Ohoo – the discussion continuous today. And becomes even more interesting!
            This blog really is a gift. The topic is phantastic :-), the posts are brilliant and the comments are the icing on the cake. Wow, what I have already learnt from the comments and responses today will come in handy when I will have the privileg to meet my brother in law upcoming weekend. He is a professional photographer with the intention to leap into portrait photography, and I will have no scruples to really show off with all I have learnt. Yesss.
            As for a suggestion for an *ooof I would love your comments on the Waldorf Astria pictures by Magnus Sundholm. They are one of my favorites from the newer pics (even though someone messed up the curtain behind Mr. A.), although they might be a bit too shallow from the artistic point of view and the composition is not really exciting. I just love the laidback expression he shows. And also the pics from Vera Anderson cause me serious Schnappatmung. Pleaseplease *ooof them.
            But to be honest – I am really easy to satisfy. I will happily ponder over every *ooof you will provide us with. And as it is your blog: please *ooof the pictures that YOU like most or find the most interesting. The more fun you have to analyse a certain pic the more fun I have reading the result.
            And as mentioned before: this is all about education of course. To be able to show off when necessary ;-).

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            • Yep – discussion continues today. It appears that we are both in a similar time zone, i.f. – Germany by any chance? (Schnappatmung was the dead give-away… in my case, btw, it is less of a “gasping” but more of a “death rattle” – death by photography. Well, a photographer couldn’t die any happier tbh…)
              Thanks for the suggestion. I just looked up Sundholm on RAnet and I am all too happy to *ooof* one of his pics. (Incidentally, I did one of the other Waldorf images in February – a portrait by Robert Deutsch. https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/ooof-two-slices-of-armitage-please/ But I haven’t looked at any of the other ones taken that day, apart from V. Wills.) I think I’ll pick one of the curtain portraits – the ones with the red backdrop I will leave for Vera Andersons (which I sort of promised Nimue to look at :-))
              Oh, and glad to be of help with providing some meat for your photography discussions with b-i-l. Here’s what you do: Pepper your conversation with jargon. You can still profess to know nothing about photography, but if you throw in little words like “aperture”, “depth of field”, and refer to “glass” and “stopping down”, they think you are in the know *ggg*. (Do you need German translations for that?)
              Oh, and big thanks for the nice things you say about this blog!

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              • Oh yes please, translation would be highly appreciated, lol. But I will have to be very careful not to go too far. As he is Hasselblad Master he will realise pretty soon where my knowledge comes to it’s limit. And I love him dearly – so no intention to offend him. Just an opportunity to give him the impression I am really interested in the world he lives in. Which I really am.
                Same timezone is nearly correct. It’s Austria by the way – one hour ahead of beautiful Erie, as far as I know?
                The Deutsch pictures? Yesyesyes. Very much mine. And I enjoyed the post about them. I am not on tumbler but could find your site some weeks ago, and have so far caught up with nearly all of your previous *ooofs. It is absolutely ridiculous how much time I spend on the net to covering my constant need for an RAfix. *sternbrow*.
                But sorry, I can’t help it….
                Agreed on an *ooof on the Waldorf pics? Wow, looking forward to that, THANK YOU!

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                • Ah, the AAA (Austrian Armitage Army) :-). You are actually one hour ahead of me!
                  Ok – here’s the deal for your “interested amateur” talk with b-i-l (Hasselblad *gasps* – I am impressed!!!) Rather than throw in the jargon, ask intelligent questions such as: What aperture do you prefer shooting at (welche Blende bevorzugst du?) and why? Do you prefer ambient light to flash (Umgebungslicht oder Blitzlicht)? When you shoot, do you pre-compose your shots or does composition happen on the spot? What’s your stance on Photoshop? That’ll give you plenty of occasion to chat about portrait photography where you can bring in your own opinion, informed (hopefully) by what you have read here and elsewhere.
                  I’d love to hear from you how your talk with b-i-l went – and what you have learned from him.

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                  • Will keep you posted, promise!
                    Is there really something like an A(A)AA (anonymus austrian armitage addicts)? I have not come across them….

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              • “Aperture” was the word she said that hooked me in πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks for the kind words, i.f. I love it when people appreciate Guylty!

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      • Dear Servetus,
        I do appreciate both of your articles very much. Always a gift to read them. I am really grateful fort he big amount of time you invest in running this blog and spoiling us with news, with thoughtful analyses, funny gossip, interesting links to other members of Armitageworld, glimpses into your private life, an elysium for semantics and linguists and over all providing a meeting platform for such a lovley bunch of ladies (and gents) that meanwhile a short stopover on your blog is part of my daily routine.
        You never fail to deliver.

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        • It’s fun not least because of the discussions we get to have, so thanks for joining hte conversation!

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  7. I actually love the first one, a study in blue and black? Such a beautiful man. The eyelashes just about killed me.

    I also don’t mind the daily Ascroft surprise.. I see it as a gift a day.

    Didn’t realize a photoshoot like this could take so many hours. I wonder if there’s a video of the photoshoot?

    Thank you Guylty for your insight. Really fascinating the behind-the-scenes of the world of photography.

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    • I find it very interesting that you (and others) are expressing surprise at the length of a shoot such as this. If anything, I am probably calculating too short! My calculation is really based on the optimum – with everything set-up, all equipment in full working order, all participants working at the top of their game. 4 hours is the minimum, I think. I’ve assisted at fashion shoots which consisted of 4 set-ups, all within one location, with one model – and it took us a full 8 hours to get it all in the box. Mind you – it was a female model (ahem).
      I have just googled for an Ascroft behind-the-scenes. I have not seen any video footage, but there are a few pictures of a fashion shoot he did. One of the images shows the “tethered shooting” that I have described before – where the photographer is shooting (in a separate room) while the rest of the team is huddled around a screen on which the images appear in real time. That makes the process quicker – as I assumed in my *ooof* Here’s the link: http://poppypetal.gallery.free.fr/displayimage.php?album=934&pid=34611#top_display_media
      Edit: I was lying! I have just found a behind-the-scenes. *squeeeeee* Does Ascroft shoot with a Hasselblad? OMG!!! You get an impression of the big set-up in this vid: http://bcove.me/7okgwu5k

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      • Whoa! What an interesting look at an Ascroft photoshoot. It was interesting to see the photographer as well. In light of this, it does seem that the RA shoot was more formal, more directed by the photographer? That was part of my wish for the “behind the scenes” photos of the model changing wardrobe. That there would be more personality of the model revealed. Okay, I said “part”!! πŸ˜€

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        • ah, so that’s what that’s called. Personality. πŸ™‚ Will remember that for future purposes.

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        • *hehehe* – personal parts of the personality, Marie, hm? I’m afraid that most behind-the-scenes very discreetly pass over the costume changes *ahem*.
          Hard to tell how much direction Ascroft is used to giving. It could easily also depend on the sitter – the photographer would expect a professional model to “offer” poses. Not sure how that works with someone like Armitage, who is a pro in front of the camera and has a good number of photo shoots under his belt, but is not a model. And by looks of things doesn’t necessarily *like* photo shoots that much. He may rely on the direction of the photographer more?
          BTW, I was laughing about myself when I noticed the male model in the Ascroft shoot of the video lying on some white wooden boxes. I inwardly squeeeed – “that’s the boxes that Armitage had his bum on!!!” I am cracking up.

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      • Thanks, good to see Ascroft in that video πŸ™‚

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  8. I too found the technical aspect informative, while the interpretation interesting. the first picture does seem to be “safer” in a way to study because he is not looking at the camera, but down in a contemplative stance, yet it almost seems like he still sees us from his peripheral vision; he knows we’re looking at him πŸ™‚ I like that you pointed out the way the clothing lays and how the hand in the pocket leaves the jacket open. I’m drawn to his waistband, not for naughty reasons, I’m just always drawn to his hips for some reason. in the second picture, even though he’s looking at us, challenging us, I too see that twinkle in his eye that tells us it’s okay, he’s having fun with it πŸ™‚ the more casual clothing and the classically male stance of clasping his hands together in that relaxed sitting position, makes me a little hot under the collar πŸ˜‰

    it’s interesting to me to see how his legs are placed, affects me differently. these photo breakdowns make me more aware of what I like, and why I like certain things; thank you for that, it’s fun! πŸ™‚

    I don’t mind the slow stream of releasing these pictures, I’d much rather have them a few at a time where I can give them the focus that they deserve, rather than all at once where so many of them would be lost in the crowd to me. it’s apparent that photo-shopping was used, but that doesn’t bother me in this series (it does in others) because it seems to fit with the youthful and open atmosphere the shots convey πŸ™‚

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    • Good point, Kelbel – by spoon-feeding us, we savour the individual taste more. That is, no doubt, also the strategy that is behind the slow release. As a bit of an Ascroft acolyte I enjoy it. But my love is fickle. I’ll switch allegiance quickly, if something new comes along. – That, incidentally, only applies to the photographers, but not the subject :-D.

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    • I thought again, looking at that waistband — this is a really good look for him. Yes, it’s super traditional and not the height of mode in any way, he’s not going to get into the rotogravure with it, but this is a pant style that does everything possible for the large posterior and muscular thighs, creating an effective draping that’s so seductive and elegant to look at.

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      • The way you are describing it, I now understand why stylists dress him in these kinds of trousers. I am beginning to get into them. Ahem. I wish *hehe*.

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        • I get that they’re not exactly modish. I mean, yeah, my dad wears slacks like that, too πŸ™‚ but there’s a reason that classic styles are classic — because they’re not hard to wear and they do a lot for different builds of men.

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        • Look at the way they pull across his waist / groin with the fly as axis, for starters. Implies presence without us necessitating the protruding package (that he apparently doesn’t have). Across the upper thigh, those lines that show us exactly how big that thigh is, but without outlining it exactly — we can tell it’s proportionally large, but the line of the slack isn’t distorted by it (so one guesses that the bottom of the slack isn’t cut too wide, which often seems to happen when he wears jeans that accommodate his upper legs …).

          I want one. Please.

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          • I just perused Richard Armitage’s crotch area. (If any of my friends read this, they will immediately book me into the nearest asylum.) Only for understanding what you were describing. And yes. Classy! Definitely classy. The waist line works really well for a slim man like RA. I have to admit I am slightly more comfortable with obscured “packages” – I am a bit of a prude, it seems. Plus, I always worry about men’s comfort in tight trousers. And their fertility – apparently very bad!!!

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  9. I Had not seen the one in the suit, Luckily I was sitting down. I do wonder how many more shots he has left that he wants to publish but that has to be one of my favorites. My ovaries clang every time I see this man But today I think they exploded. I love your explanations of how the photos are taken. Thank you for such detailed explanation you must spend a lot of time studying them!!!

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    • *coughs* – yeah, I look for a loooong time, Rosie. Someone’s got to do it *sighs*. Nah, no hardship :-). But it does usually take me about 2-3 hours to write an *ooof*, research and write-up together. I have to say, though, that the technical part usually comes pretty quickly to me. The interpretation is a different matter – because the reactions and connotations in my head are sometimes just images that are difficult to explain or to put into words. But it’s great fun. Sometimes I read over old *ooof*s – and suddenly things occur to me that I hadn’t noticed before. Even an old picture is new every time you look at it.
      Thanks for your support. I appreciate it and it is a major motivator!

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  10. Chest hair vs bulging biceps? Can’t go wrong with either of these photos

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    • Hear hear. πŸ˜€ You could break it down even further: Armitage in photo? Can’t go wrong. Period. Thanks for commenting, Cindy πŸ™‚

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  11. Random: I like these t-shirts that have the overcast hem on the sleeve. Makes him look even more casual. I just noticed that in this picture — he has other t-shirts like that, though (at least one grey one). Since we know he repeated other clothes we recognized in this shoot, I’m thinking this must be “his” t-shirt …

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  12. I really do love these new images. My favorites are always those in which he appears more casual – such as in the t-shirt and jeans, which do see seem natural to him.

    The blue steel door is becoming a quick favorite. The tabbed slacks are reminiscent of the lighter gray ones of a photo shoot of 2003 (at RAnet), which were not a favorite. But the one above is…um…growing on me. I will say no more on that front.

    I am probably in the minority here in this thought, but the slow release of these does smack of “PR” strategy – which doesn’t necessarily mean that Richard is in-the-know of it. Odd that the Russian site would have exclusivity though.

    All the same, really lovely observations here, Guylty.

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  13. While RA is gorgeous in these Ashcroft photos, most of them have always reminded me of school portraits. Not necessarily the technical aspects, but something about them seem to lack artistry. Of course, I don’t know diddly about photography so that’s just my humble opinion. And that’s why I always enjoy reading your analysis of the photos and processes — it’s enlightenting to get a professional/insider’s view. Thanks.

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    • Oh Sloan! Lack artistry? Your opinion is as valid as mine, and memories or associations can never be disputed, but you really think this is not done well? (I am feeling the pain, in Ascroft’s place πŸ˜‰ ) The only way I can see where you are coming from is the whole issue of the photographic backdrops, the artificiality of the scene. But that is the point of studio photography, I guess. There is something else, though, that reminds me of American school portraits – there is a strange fuzzyness in the Ascroft images, some artistic blur, that I just can’t get my head around and that I have been trying to explain to myself. It’s probably the lighting, especially in the seated portrait – something about the soft light that blurs the edges.
      I hope you forgive me for disagreeing back at you πŸ˜‰ – in a good way, because any disagreement forces me to check my own theories. Whether you know “diddly” about photography or not, it’s as valuable to me to hear what you have to say than what it may be for you to read my thoughts. Thanks for expressing your opinion openly!

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      • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re the backdrops and artiificiality of the scenes which makes some of these photos particularly mundane. The subject matter however could never be boring — for example the the newsprint photo Serv and FL posted that’s causing such speculation and discussion. Once again, thanks for pinpointing what I wasn’t able to articulate.

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        • The artificialty of the background rips the subject out of context – and yes, then the pose takes on a bit of a ridiculous affectation. Mind you, that can even happen when shot on location. (I am reminded of an old shoot of RA’s – the one where he is posing in the shiny blue suit with open shirt in what looks like a stable. It had me wondering whether he was romancing a horse… (Shamelessly self-promoting the FanstRA *spooof* in which I wrote about that shot: https://guylty.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/spooof-the-delights-of-voyeurism/ ))
          And agreed – the subject matter is *always* appreciated, no matter how badly caught.

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  14. Blimey, another astonishing analysis that makes my eyes water. (I do not cry, except in serious bereavement.) One thing I enjoy about being a newcomer to the Armitage online fandom is that I have many of Guylty’s *oofs* to catch up on.
    This post made me ponder my complicity in ogling RA as an object of beauty, then nick upstairs to get my copy of Ways of Seeing, by John Berger — a still radical book I first read as a high-school girl in the ’80s, at the urging of my art teacher.
    OK, just to get all arty-farty on you, here’s Berger from chapter 3:
    “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male; the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object, and most particularly an object of vision: A sight.”
    In our collective admiration of RA, we are turning something that was long thought not to exist, and which was denied by traditional art historians — the female gaze — on a man. In doing so, we seize a power long assumed by men.
    But, I dunno; sometimes when I look at these astoundingly beautiful pictures of RA, I feel powerless; I feel the power is all his, and that I am willingly but helplessly in his thrall. I wonder what RA thinks as he looks as the proofsheets from his Ascoft sessions, knowing that all he has to do is be beautiful, then walk away and take no responsibility for the effect these pictures have.

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    • Groovergreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (squeeee) Berger is the bible! We are getting into serious art (-photography) theory here. I adored Berger’s insights. The issue of the female and male gaze are probably too intricate to get into in the comments. Whole university essays have been penned on them. Yes, there is a power-relationship in the process of viewing. And since the rise of the cult of celebrity (which brings with it the publication of photos with the sole purpose of providing glimpses of the adored star) women have been discovered as a new (and commercially powerful) target group, hence the re-development of the female gaze. In short: We can “ogle” too. And we can apply our power on Armitage in this context.
      I do not think that the female and male gazes differ much anymore. The big difference for me lies in the depiction of the two genders in photography. And that is probably why you still feel powerless, even though the power should be with you when you are viewing the RA images. I think the visual representation of women and men in the arts by and large is still very gender specific and actually rather traditional. There is much more sexual titillation in the depiction of women (in art as much as in commercial photography) than in men. Although I do find a certain sensual pull in the images of RA, there is no doubt for me, however, that RA is being shown with an emphasis on *his* power. His power to seduce (the glower) for instance, or his physical power (body attributes such as exposed biceps, broad shoulders) and his confidence (the challenging, open stare in some images) at being powerful. (I am not saying this does not exist in depictions of females – but less so.) Men are *still* resisting to give up power. Not Armitage personally, or the creators of his images, for that matter, but in general. Even in images of men that appeal to the baser instincts of females, the emphasis is still on the strength or power of men (because more often than not they feature naked muscly men – physically powerful specimen). Oh, I could go on and on.
      Some of the powerlessness in regard to the Armitage imagery is probably self-induced. Let’s face it: As admirers of the man we are voluntarily handing over some power to him. And as thinking fans we also questioning our own attitudes and our own reactions. (And sometimes it is actually good giving up power, especially when it is safe. And looking at a photograph of a man we will never meet is pretty safe, so – all is good :-))

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      • Can I like everything about this response? Yes? Good.
        I *love* discussions of power roles, informed consumption of problematic material, male/female gaze, and depictions of gender in media.
        Armitage fans are the best fans.

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        • πŸ˜€ I think we are. Subjectively so.
          And I think you have come to the right place, because Serv is great at addressing those issues and leading us from the microcosm of Armitage-related issues to the wider, real world.

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          • I have felt I’d come to the right place from the moment I first clicked through to this blog.

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            • Me too, Alyssa. This blog is the reason I came out and started publishing what later became my *ooof*s. (Some of my college thesis contained semiotic picture analyses of RA, and I needed to share *ggg*)

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          • you may have guessed that there’s a post coming on Armitage and the male gaze … or maybe you didn’t ? πŸ™‚

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            • I didn’t guess that at all – but I am delighted to hear that!!! A fascinating subject, and I can’t wait to read your thoughts. (I think I need to re-read Berger tonight, in anticipation)

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      • Thank you, thank you, Guylty, for cutting through my brainfog and illuminating exactly why these pictures have such a confusing effect. They are indeed about RA’s power to draw the gaze, then toy with it. The second pic is bold and challenging, and in the first it’s as if he’s saying “You can’t catch my eye; you can stare all you want but you can never make me look at you”.
        Servetus made an interesting comment earlier about the trickle of these pictures from a mystery source (From Russia With Love?) and how someone on high might be delighting in manipulating the fandom. That is certainly a discomfiting thought.
        However, I take back my comment about RA’s “responsibility” for such effects. (It makes me sound like those creeps who blame women for our own harassment.) My reaction is my own responsibility.
        Well, off now to read some earlier *oofs* to put a smile back on my dial!

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        • You know, I always have to laugh, over on Tumblr, when we write reactions to photos of RA like “I hate you!” or “Despicable man” – as if he is out to get us, killing us with his looks, deliberately ruining all other men for us. It just seems so absurd to hold him responsible for the reactions he evokes in us. (But it’s fun all the same.) As you said – we are responsible ourselves. I mean, I *could* actually stop looking at him. (Yeah, right…) But as it *is* a two-way process, I am sure RA has sussed out with his publicist how he wants to be represented photographically. Who knows, maybe he is all in favour of smoothing out the lines *smirks*…

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        • If it’s being done on purpose for manipulation, then most likely for marketing purposes — I don’t think it’s for anything worse (or better) than that. And if that’s happening, I don’t think it’s Armitage plotting it or even doing it himself, but rather an agreed upon strategy with / via a publicist / manager. Given what we know about him, it’s not consistent to assume that Armitage is manipulative of fans. Fickle, maybe, but not malevolent πŸ™‚

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  15. *ooof*” He is suitable for dance(pic1) and for the Rosary(pic2)” as my grandma used to say πŸ˜‰ Thank you for another fascinating post,Guylty!..now back to..drooling..I mean, brain excercises

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  16. Holy moly, I go out for a day and miss so much fun! Thanks Guylty… I had wondered about time for a shoot like this (was esp. wondering if to was a half or full day affair which would be grueling for professional models, not to mention someone for whom it’s not a favored activity.) It would be sort of interesting to see the chronology of the shoot to see if there is a perceptible difference in the sitter as the day progresses and he’s approaching the “enough” stage..just things I think about :). I like the discussion of the more artistic vs candid quality of Ascroft vs press photogs and the role played by the gender of the photographer, all fascinating ideas – thanks everyone!

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    • Yeah, trust us to lower the tone wherever we can, Obscura!
      The sequence of the shoot would interest me, too – mostly for the reason you have given. Does the sitter need time to warm-up? Does he come to a point where the posing becomes more normal? Does he learn to understand and react the photographer’s direction? Does he tire and get grumpy. Does that mean he needs more photoshopping afterwards *haha*? A proper, long making-of would be hugely interesting.
      The comparison of press vs. artistic portrait will feature in tomorrow’s *ooof*. I had that already written when all hell broke loose with the emergence of these gems. Whoa – I have basically had three days of full-time *ooof* behind me: writing tomorrow’s *ooof* on Saturday, then writing this *ooof* yesterday and engaging in discussion, continuing discussion today, and tomorrow another *ooof* with discussion. My work suffers badly. I am considering sueing Armitage for loss of earnings.Really. (Maybe marieastra8 can advise me… It’s good to have a labour relations pro in our midst.)

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      • Between his constant interference in proper child rearing, and now this work disruption, I think we’d have a good class action suit πŸ˜‰

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        • Constant interference in proper child rearing *LOL* work disruption *ROFL* class action *muhaha*. Love it. Armitage is responsible for so much. From mutilating women (I only mention ovaries) to the breakdown of whole economies. Enemy of the state.

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      • Tee hee! I’ve seen lawsuits based on less, believe me! And what would the *remedy* be? The mind boggles! πŸ˜€

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        • Hm. Remedy? I don’t really want to take him out of circulation, but maybe he should do some community service? In the Armitage community of course? I envisage 1 week per RArmy member?

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          • Woot….I’m all for rehabilitation over punitive measures πŸ™‚

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          • Surely he owes us each at least a week apiece. Just think of all the time we’ve lost! He could do some DIY work around our houses. Perhaps in certain rooms more than others, but that’s strictly up to each RArmy member. I could write up the Stipulation of Agreement! πŸ˜€

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            • This whole stream just keeps on giving. Yes, Marie – it should all be contractually determined. After all, we don’t want any follow-on disputes among AA members. We may have to factor in recuperation periods between individual deployment of the offender, depending on his individual performance in the houses of various participating probation assistants.

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              • How considerate of you! We do try to be…um..realistic in our expectations of the offender’s ability to perform the required restitution when settling a grievance.

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            • 5.5 hours alone on the day the Sydney pix appeared.

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  17. Thank You for the early *ooof* this week. I was busy yesterday, tried to read the comments and keep falling to sleep. I thought it best to go to bed. Today a lot more comments to read.

    I like the t-shirt picture best, that should be no surprise. Black or white it don’t matter to me. I don’t mind the more formal look, just like the casual better. I wonder what he thinks of the posing in ways that might not be comfortable, as we have seen in a couple photos.

    Thank you for all the learning that I am getting in these posts.

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    • Well, buckle up, Katie – there’s another *ooof* on its way in less than 12 hours πŸ˜‰
      I would so love to chat with RA about his experience of photo shoots. Necessary evil or enjoyable? Probably the former.

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  18. […] He did the classic white backdrop portraits, he placed a suited RA in front of a relatively neutral steel door for several shots, he had a less formal Armitage sit on the concrete floor and on a shabby chic […]

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  19. […] A photographer with a classic and classy approach. ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof ooof […]

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