*ooof*: Nos(e)talgic Armitage

Writing this post feels a bit like waiting for Father Christmas. I am amusing myself with this instalment of the weekly *ooof* while waiting for the big fan event that has been touted all over the internet. Well, within our fandom’s little corner of the internet. I am waiting for Father Armitage. Or in the absence of any offspring, for Uncle Thorin? I like the “organic”, topical approach to blogging, that is the referencing of up-to-date material and topics. And therefore, for the second time in a row, I have chosen an image of Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield for the *ooof*. I know you will forgive me, because this is really hot:

hobbit1395159_571386936268643_1293504395_n

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield
in a Movie Poster for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Let us disregard the fact that this beautiful image is marred by a logo and marketing slogans, at least we have the main focus of the image clear of lettering and can study drool over Thorin’s Armitage’s impressive profile without distraction. Here we have the majestic king of the dwarves in a wonderfully dynamic pose. The half-length portrait shows Thorin’s torso straight on, but his head has been turned to his left, giving us a (near) profile. (Do I actually spot the Adam’s apple there, in the half shadow underneath the bearded chin? Mhhh, I feel tempted to start a AdamsAppletage tumblr just for that…) Thorin’s strong shoulders and heavy build are emphasised by the bulky fur collar of his coat. His decoratively armoured top is clearly visible underneath the collar, marking him as a warrior, prepared for battle, as is the beautiful buckle he is wearing across his chest. Once again we have some inspired hair porn acting going on, with the long strands of his hair floating back and his wavy tresses catching the light.

Faced Thorin with an intense gaze on his face and his mouth half-open, we are given the impression that he is on the cusp of springing into action: His stare is facing off-camera, and he is catching a last breath before he will pounce. The pose is interesting as it is simultaneously static as well as dynamic: Thorin has his right shoulder up and his left shoulder down while his head is actually held up (noticeable by the elongated neck). This gives the impression that Thorin is moving forward despite actually depicting a sideways lean. The effect is that of the subject swaying, moving, leaning in – like a heavy object that is just about to move. Imagine a steam engine – slow to get into motion, but once it has been turned loose, it will surge forward and be impossible to stop. An iron horse – an iron giant. Surely a simile that Thorin would very much approve of, and reminiscent of the bison that Armitage took inspiration from when he conceived both Thorin’s look as well as some of his psychological characteristics.

What truly excites me about this image, however, is not Richard Armitage *gasps* oh blasphemy!!! but the evocative lighting in it. It is a wonderful example of how lighting can be used to dramatic effect in photography. The light that is being used here is sidelighting, basically at a 90 degree angle. If Thorin hadn’t turned his face to the left, the light would catch only one side of his face, leaving the other half in darkness. As it is, his face is completely illuminated by the light. Very cleverly, however, the light from the side catches the intricate detail of the armoured shirt and the luxurious texture of the fur. I think this is the most detailed I have seen the armour so far, no thanks to the widely hailed 48fps frame rate but thanks to the photographer of this image.

Sidelighting like this, when used on a distinct rough and textured surface, adds a pronounced 3D feeling to an image: The light catches on the details of the surface while leaving shadow in the ridges. The three-dimensional plates of the armour gain depth and weight – adding to the characterisation of Thorin as a warrior. Similarly, the lighting points out the texture of the hair of Thorin’s beard, eyebrows and locks – an important characteristic as it enhances Thorin’s masculinity. The strong, undiffused light leads our eyes to the parts of the image that are illuminated the brightest – these are, by definition, those parts that are a) closest to the light and b) the most reflective (or lightest in colour).

Of course it is no coincidence that it should be Thorin’s face and fur-covered shoulders that draw our gaze – these are the parts of the image that give us a clue as to the intentions and characteristics of the subject: Thorin’s intention is to react or attack fiercely, and his character is that of a single-minded, armoured and well-heeled/-padded warrior. The lighting here evokes a feeling of tension and uncertainty: not all parts of the image are illuminated. As the viewer we do not get the full picture, so to speak. Part of the action, the scene and even Thorin’s personality are hidden from us. Readers of the book know that Thorin is a conflicted, dichotomous character. As a prince and potential king he is a figure of light, majestic, handsome, powerful, wise, full of initiative, courage and valour. However, there are less heroic characteristics lurking in the shadows – a disposition to be greedy, obsessive pursuing of a goal, a cantankerous, arrogant, stubborn personality, an inclination to rely on prejudice. The use of strong light and shadow subtly supports that interpretation – where there is light, there is shadow. Where there is a hero, there is a villain.

What initially struck me about the whole poster design, however, was the tonality. The image has been post-produced in such a way that it has a Sepia tone to it. You probably have heard the term Sepia before. It is generally understood as a brownish tone on a monochrome image. We often associate it with faded, old photographs – but in fact Sepia originated as a process for *prolonging* the longevity of prints rather than diminish their durability: The name comes from a sea creature – Sepia Officialis – whose secretions were used from the 1880s onwards as a method of preserving photographs. The images have the “faded” look right from the beginning – intentionally so, although they are actually more durable than b/w prints. No fishy smells have been recorded, btw. This is a process that is happening when the image is being printed, i.e. it affects the positive print, not the negative original of an image. The pigment derived from the Cuttlefish is added to the chemicals used for positive printing and overlays the image with the brown tone. (The original process was later redeveloped with chemicals that change the actual silver molecules contained in the photographic emulsion into a silver compound and thus affect the tonality. I spare you the chemistry lecture…)

As the image originates on digital, the Sepia toning is “artificial”. Nowadays we do not need to handle poisonous substances in well-ventilated darkrooms anymore, and we can play with the tonality just like the graphic designer has done here. Because the image is not entirely monochrome. Particularly Thorin’s face looks untoned to me; the skin shows the natural hues while the rest of the image has been toned Sepia. This is consistent with the other six versions of the movie posters which you can see on the official Facebook page of The Hobbit.  The use of Sepia is not a whim. Sepia bring warm tones to b/w image. It therefore adds a warmer feel to the image and its contents. It is widely associated with nostalgia, and in this instance, the use of a Sepia tone undoubtedly is meant to evoke a classic, old-fashioned feel. As such, we are being manipulated to understand the image as an old photograph, a look into the past, reminiscent of old times – Middle Earth times? There is a feeling of genuineness associated with Sepia photography that digital photography – because of its fleeting, non-tangible nature – usually lacks. While noone is trying to make us believe, that this is actually an old heirloom straight from Middle Earth, there is however a feeling intended in such an image. Even though photography has always been more widely accessible and affordable than portraiture painting, old originals are few and far between, they are precious and rare. Associations of an old photograph, coveted, saved over time, held in respect and awe come with such an image, and the denotations connected with it extend to the 21st century movie poster we are faced with.

Clever. But actually not driven quite to the max. While the image may imitate the Sepia tone genuinely enough, the image composition, the chosen pose and the Photoshop-created background are much too typical  for 21st century photography than to convince the bright and brainy viewer that it is old and genuine. Just google “antique Sepia portraits” and take a look at old photographs: The portraits are mostly dead-pan, the sitters look at the camera, they depict a static pose, not a movement, and they have neutral backgrounds. This is a modern imitation of an old process – done for effect, not for a genuine copy of the style. (Interestingly, however, a comparison with the other version of the DOS posters shows that Thorin is the only major character who has been shot in profile. Coincidence? An hommage to the impressive Armitage beak? Or a deliberate off-camera gaze in which Thorin avoids the gaze of the viewer and focuses on an enemy instead? Also, note how all other characters are depicted with their weapon noooo, not *that* weapon!!!, even the harmless little hobbit! Coincidence? Or a subtle hint of what is to come?). We will find out more when the film shows in the cinema in December 2013.

Disclaimer: What follows is a re-imagining of The Hobbit’s conclusion. I apologize to all Tolkien purists (that includes you, Mr Armitage) and assure you that no disrespect is intended.

Majesty, the portraitist is here.” Thorin hardly lifted his head and sniffed derisively. Another half-baked idea by his advisors. To have his likeness taken – for posterity. As befits a king. To be forever present in the annals of history. He had written history himself – with actions, not pretty pictures. He was damned if he was going to be pictured placidly on his throne, like an old granny spinning her wool. “Tell him he has ten minutes to sketch me. No more than that.” He waved his hand in a gesture of dismission and turned back to the balcony from where he was surveying the entrance to Erebor.

Scuffling noises were heard behind him. A small cough announced the arrival of the portraitist. Thorin drew himself up to his most impressive height and turned around. His gaze landed in empty space. His eyes flickered down. A small figure stood before him, clad in a gown, clutching a small box and a stool. A woman. “Who are you? What do you want?” he grumbled. “Advisor – why is this woman here?” “That, my prince, is the portraitist.” “A woman???” The woman straightened her spine. “Forgive me, my Lord, but I have been chosen by your advisor to take your likeness for I am the fastest portraitist in Erebor.” Thorin’s eyes narrowed down to slits, not unlike those of the hated dragon-pest he had most recently killed – and for the glory of which he was now going to be immortalised in pencil and hide. “You have ten minutes, woman. Be quick. I do not entertain self-indulgence for myself and dilettantism in others.” He stood with his arms crossed over his chest, his legs steadfastly spread wider than his shoulders.

The woman nodded. “Just stay as you are, my Lord.” She started opening her little box. “What has she got there?” “This is my invention, my Lord. This box will capture your likeness. I will point it at you and it will do all the work in a mere second.” The king had trouble keeping his eyebrows under control. They were threatening to go up under his widow’s peaks. “All the better”, he growled extra rumbly, trying to mask the curiosity which was taking hold of his thoughts. “May I place you over there, closer to the window, my Lord, for the light to catch your magnificent countenance ?” Thorin shuffled closer to the window while the woman placed the stool on the ground and stepped up on it.

“Wait, how much of myself will be captured in your box?” “I was going to take a likeness of your kingly visage only.” Thorin thought for a split second. “Can you catch more than that in your magic box?” “Indeed I can, my prince.” “I would really like for my magnificent tresses to be part of the portrait”, Thorin decreed with a flick of said locks. “As you wish, my Lord.” He tossed his tresses over his shoulders, pulling a few strands back forward over his chest. “How is this?” “Splendid, my Lord.” The portraitist brought her box up in front of her face. “Wait!” Thorin bellowed. “Is my armour in the portrait?” “It is not very well seen, my Lord, the shadow obscures it.” “I want my dress armour in this portrait”, Thorin demanded. The woman sighed softly and stepped off her stool. “Of course, your majesty. Just turn to the side and let the light from the window catch your armour.”

While Thorin turned sideways, the woman moved the stool and stepped up again. “I am ready to capture your likeness now.” Thorin held his chin high and put as much princely determination and kingly power into his gaze as he could muster. “Hold on”, he interrupted her suddenly, with a wave of his hand. “The Durin Proboscis must be in the shot!” he demanded. “Just turn your head towards the light, if you please”, the portraitist suggested, “a profile will depict your majestic frontispiece most advantageously.” Thorin shifted his head towards the window. “Does my nose look big in this?” “Most magnificently, my Lord. I am ready.” “Then capture me” he ordered. The portraitist brought the box up to her face and turned a lever. “It is done, my Lord.” “Good”, he rumbled, and without another word he leaned forward and moved out of her sights onto the balcony, leaving the portraitist on her stool.

PS: Please forgive me if I am not as quick on the reply today. No, I am not suffering an overdose from the live viewing of the Fan Event last night, but I am actually working off-site all day. Go ahead and comment to your hearts’ content, though!

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 November 5, 2013.

52 Responses to “*ooof*: Nos(e)talgic Armitage”

  1. Love the little ficlet as usual! 😉 When I first saw this poster, what captured my attention was the masterful use of light and shadow and then looking at the rest, I noted the fact only Thorin had been depicted in profile. And with no weapon . . . interesting, indeed.
    And as you already know, I LOVE sepia. *yawn* Lordie, I need to go to bed. But isn’t this a beaut?! . . . my favorite of all the posters (and not just because it’s Mr. Oakenshield . . . )

    Like

    • Thanks Angie! I love dramatic lighting so much more than insipid, soft diffused light. The shadows add so much drama and atmosphere. They definitely add to the characterisation of Thorin (or anyone, for that matter). Sepia is not my favourite, although I love monochromes. I am a purist when it comes to photography 😀
      Ooooh, and I am tired today too. My day is just about to start. I will be teaching photography today, yay!

      Like

      • I think that’s one of the reasons I love black and white films so much—you can create so much atmosphere when “painting” with all those “shades of grey.” Several of my favorite films are B&W and I love film noir . . . and I pretty much hate colorized films. Glad that fad has more or less died out.

        I hope you have a wonderful day of teaching today. Going to try and get a bit of shuteye soon.

        Like

  2. I didn’t know how they obtained the Sepia colored photographs! Thank you as usual for you very interesting *lesson* on lights and technical details. And the ficlet… oh, if only! I’m a bit of a Tolkien purist too, but I fear so much Thorin’s insanity and death that I could easily accept out of canon happy ending! 😀

    Like

    • I wrote the ficlet *after* the fan event and was totally hobbitted out 😀 So no RPF there, plus a bit of self-indulgence. And I had to get a happy end in there for Thorin. I’ll burn in Mordor for that, I know!!

      Like

      • But you made all of us little fangurls who dread the end of the third film *sniff* very happy!

        Like

        • Tolkien wasn’t very fond of his dwarves, was he? Unfairly so. Even Grumpin Oakenshield has redeeming characteristics. I would love to emphasise them…

          Like

          • I think JRR was too in love with the elves. Nothing against the elves, but I’ve grown awfully fond of those dirty, filthy, smelly, sweaty, raucous dwarves. I don’t think old Grumpin would have gained such a loyal following from his little company if he didn’t have those redeeming qualities.

            Like

            • My thoughts exactly. I read the book last year for the first time. Ok, I already knew then that RA was playing ole Grumpin, and that may have influenced my interpretation, but I certainly did not dislike Thorin in the book, but liked him and understood the reasons for his behaviour. Hm, scrap that – I *am* influenced by the fact RA was playing him. Just too pretty *ggg*

              Like

      • We will all burn in Mordor then, because we all would wish a different ending. PJ and RA fault, that created a Thorin much more interesting than… the Hobbit 😛

        Like

  3. Micra! The blasphemy! 😀
    Guylty, that was brilliant – the analysis as well as the ficlet. I sense some full-blown fan fiction coming up…
    I’m actually glad you’re not dumbstruck by the fan event like, um, some of us. Enjoy! 🙂

    Like

  4. I hadn’t even considered a sepia intent with the coloring when I saw this poster for the first time. I assumed they were bathing Thorin in gold light as a reference to the gold in the mountain. The gold he is both drawn toward and sickened by.

    Maybe that’s just on the brain because it’s what Richard has been talking about in his interviews lately.

    In any case, this is a stunningly beautiful photo.

    Like

    • Actually, Alyssa, your reading of the image isn’t bad, either. The gold reference never occurred to me. And it would make sense. I do think, though, that the warm, brown effect has been caused by toning rather than lighting – just because the blue-metallic armour appears brownish here.
      The photo is gorgeous, despite the fierce stare. We don’t get to see profiles very often – and such a pity that is! Thanks for your comment!

      Like

  5. Father Armitage, do I get to sit on his lap and whisper what I want for Christmas?
    Love the ficlet, as always 🙂

    Like

    • *teeheehee* trust Agzy to pick out the juicy bit. You might be in luck. Judging by last night’s appearances, a Father Christmas beard may already be in the making. Or am I the only one who found the stubble slightly overgrown?

      Like

      • Yep, def overgrown!! The beard is obviously faster growing than his hair, which looked as pretty much the same length, as at his last public appearance some weeks ago.
        Guylty, love that picture/poster and would be really tempted to hang it up and I love your charming short story. Thorin wasn’t even irritated by this new (dangerous) apparatus and acted without hesitation, absolutely valiant and heroic (“putting” himself into the hands of a woman!), even though it is obvious all the time, that he is well aware of his impressive good looks…. 🙂

        Like

        • Almost a bit dishevelled. But we agreed previously that dishevelled is good. Maybe dishy-velled is the word? Dishy Dick – damn, that moniker is gonna stick…
          Yeah, I wonder how vain and self-conscious Thorin is – when it comes to the ladies… He ibviously likes his locks and brushes regularly. They are never tangled. And he likes his jewellery. A new man? Wonder what his beauty regime looks like…

          Like

  6. I couldn’t wait for this Ooof Guylty. I so hoped you would choose this poster. Thanks for illuminating the lighting technique. The ficlet was fun, too – a bit of vanity there.

    Like

  7. Now THAT is what I call a poster. Great analysis Guylty!

    Like

  8. My very first thought when I saw this was ‘race you to bed.’ Then I started writing….

    Like

  9. That is a lovely poster. Been watching DoS coverage and I grew concerned for you, because your boy is looking all kinds of haggard. (Which, to be fair, is better than looking all kinds of Hagrid.) Perhaps they’re overworking him on the press tour.

    Like

  10. subscribing.

    Like

  11. Loved the post and fan fic as usual. Are you the “photographer” on the balcony? I put you there, and you will be thrown together again when going over the “proofs” with his majesty. You will be court photographer and then….. you get to know each other “well”. I loved this poster and my eye was drawn to his eye. My imagination put a spark of blue in there. I want to buy it but I can’t find it online yet. I freely admit that I resent Bilbo for surviving BOFA and not our hero. It bothered me prior to the movie, and of course now, much more. Wish we could change it outside of our heads.

    Like

    • You got me, Kathy – yes, I wrote myself into the story. (As usual, I don’t get the man *haha* – but I really like your continuation of the story, particularly the “well” in inverted commas *ggg*)
      The poster is absolutely gorgeous – nice warm tones, and the profile is just about hot enough without actually exploding the ovaries every time you look. If I was living on my own, I’d be tempted…
      Yeah, that ending of TH is just annoying. I have just decided to re-read the book again before DOS, just to be able to compare (and complain…)

      Like

      • Posters go on the back of my closet door. I get a new one about every 10 years, and they are put up one on top of the other. In order, Andre Agassi (with hair at Wimbledon), Lord of the Rings Viggo, and Thorin when I can buy him. My family takes it as just another sign of my eccentricities, which multiply as I age gracefully.

        Like

        • Oh I love this! Kathy’s little secret on the closet door 🙂 Andre Agassi with hair LOL. Talking of hair – you seem to have a thing for long locks on men? Is Guy of Gisborne, season 3, up your street?
          Btw, I like your version of aging gracefully…

          Like

  12. Well, now that YOU’VE explained it….I like it a little better. Just doesn’t speak to me. tooo…..muchhobbitpromothismonth

    Like

    • Hehe, no pressure, Carly! But I agree, it’s getting a bit much. I have early fatigue symptoms already – I haven’t even watched the videos from the fan event yet. I am spacing it a bit, too afraid of an overload. Except for pictures. I can look at them all day long…

      Like

  13. Thorin! I like. I like very much. Bring on the 2nd movie!!!

    Like

  14. Going by this poster, and I can’t be bothered to look at any others because they don’t have RA in them, I suspect the Hobbit marketeers have been startled into awareness of how widely admired RA is, and have decided for DOS to up his promo profile and capitalise on his sexiness. (Don’t hold back, I say.)
    Good to see you are starting to imagine thineself as the stills photographer you deserve to be, Guylty! And fancy sepia being a real live animal. I never knew that. I learn so much from your ooofs. Off now to google sepia and see wot that critter looks like …

    Like

    • Having a vague background in marketing, I’d love to know more about the workings of the marketing machine of TH. For instance, how flexible are they? Were they prepared for the resonance that Thorin/RA is getting? They must have been, to some extent, because these images were made last year. Hm, or were they made this year after the pick-ups???
      Hehe, yes, I am egotistically creeping into the ficlets now, Groovie. I like portraiture and do a good bit of that in my own practice (it’s one of the easy money-makers). I’d love to be a stills photographer on a movie, though, despite having to blend into the background and walk on tip-toes. Quite a varied job, from studio portraits to action shots and production documentary.
      Did you look up Sepia Officialis? What is a cuttlefish/mollusk?

      Like

  15. I love it, Guylty 🙂 Thank you ! ( I’m bit late..but you know..all that promotional heat * ooof*! )

    Like

    • Oh, in the light of the live onslaught all is forgiven, Joanna. To tell you the truth, I haven’t even looked all of it up yet, let alone watched the vlog again (which I partly missed at the live-streaming due to technical glitches) or the whole event. Just seems a bit too much. But I have read the accounts of those of us who were in NY, and that was a great insight and a great read.

      Like

  16. I must be really late to the party this time around- same excuse as everyone else, I’m afraid. I love this poster; the vivid texture of his tunic, and the fur that I could just reach out and stroke, quite apart from the glorious profile- love the word proboscis, by the way!
    I wonder what sort of instructions the photographer is given in this instance-
    are they given a brief as to what sort of mood is required? Would they need to know much about Thorin’s character to achieve the appropriate effect?

    Like

  17. […] will not be a cosy home movie but a suspenseful drama. And once again there is an imperceptible nod to old times – the desaturated image reminds us of sepia photographs. I find the visual language of the […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

 
%d bloggers like this: