*ooof*: Trying to be Cool

It looks as if I am on a roll here. Three Getz Mezibovs in a row. Has “GMRA” replaced RARA in Guylty’s affections? Not quite. Ascroft’s output was just bigger. And possibly more suited for intense drooling perusal. They are perfect calendar boy illustrations locker-room style, whereas Mezibov is something for the artsy-fartsy art collection on the domestic sitting room wall. But well, we need a picture for every occasion – and setting – don’t we?

Getz Mezibov bw

Cool. I’m just tryna be coohoohool…
Richard Armitage in a shot by Blair Getz Mezibov
For Esquire UK, 2013

And what a delicacy today’s *ooof* is – all moody mien and shady shadows. In front of a dark background we have our subject reclining casually against a leather seat. He is resting his head against a wooden rail at the top of the seatback, looking up to his left. His head resting on the rail rather low down means that he has to slip down with his bum, too – an extra slouchy pose. With his right leg crossed informally over his left knee, he gives the air of a waiting man, possibly a bit bored and aloof. This contrasts nicely with the formal attire visible in the shot – dressed in a crisp white shirt, black tux and bow-tie, we would not expect this formidably dressed man to slouch around and put creases into his couture but to show off his expensive gear in a pristine pose. The facial expression does not look particularly intense but is not entirely relaxed, either, with one eyebrow cocked and the forehead wrinkled. Combined with the stubbled cheeks we wonder whether this is a man at the end of his tether the night?

Mezibov is out, breaking rules again: This is an unusual b/w image because there is not a lot of contrast here. The wood-panelled walls of the council chamber translate into a dark background even though the wood is not really that dark (cf. the images of Armitage standing by the doorway and sitting in the “backroom“) and the black attire of the subject does not stand out very much against that. Instead, Mezibov uses individual highlights to add visual interest to this shot. In the centre of the image is the white shirt, the pale skin of face and hand stand out, as do the whites of Armitage’s eyes – even on the side of his face that is turned away from the light. Apart from that, the reflection of the light on the leather and wood leaves lines of white in the image that cleverly break the image into three parts with the subject taking centre-stage in the middle third.

We can assume from the evidence of the other shots in the same series that the images were produced in daylight hours – particularly the profile shot seems to prove that point (shot against windows through which light is streaming in) – and shot with incident light only (and probably using a reflector here to throw a little bit of light back onto Armitage’s “shady” side). But why, then, does this image look as if it is shot in a dark room, at night? Interestingly, it is perfectly possible to create the illusion of a pitch dark room while it is actually fully illuminated, especially if you shoot with flash (see for instance this image I took while testing the studio flash – the white walled studio was bright as day, illuminated through three windows from two sides. And yet the room appears completely blacked out…) In this case, it is the way the rather reddish wooden walls in the background translate into grayscale which make them look so dark and create the illusion of a darkened room. Depending on the filter the photographer applies in post-production, the darkness can even be more enhanced. Especially if a blue or green filter were applied, the effects of the wood grain and the darkness of the wood would be greatly enhanced.

A daring choice of photo, once again, as it is so dark that the black tux virtually merges with the shadows and becomes indiscernible in the shot. But: This is fashion photography, not commercial photography. Fashion photography sells a lifestyle. Commercial photography sells a product. And this is lifestyle in its purest: A handsome man, Rich rich, finely dressed, languishing in some sort of distinguished environment (a theatre?). The actual product suit is not important (they all look the same, anyway, don’t they?), but the promise of what you get when you buy it is what counts: Success, beauty, sex. A daring choice of setting for this particular sitter, too. The danger of photographing a dark-haired man against a dark background is that you might lose his hair. Ooops, is that too close to the bone, Mr Armitage? Here, the hair stands out, though, because it catches a few highlights on the left (but is virtually indistinguishable on the right where it merges with the shadow).

It is a gorgeous shot, though – very atmospheric. It was not an immediate favourite of mine, but it has grown on me, much like all of Mezibov’s shots have. Where Ascroft hit immediately – with dead-pan, straight colour, deep dof, much detail and connected gaze, Mezibov takes a slow approach. He has his sitter turn away the gaze, he hides him in shadow and presents him in poses that are often mixed messages (sitting open-legged but holding the hands across his tummy; leaning cross-legged against a wall with hands in his pockets; the open but overemphasized stance on the staircase). He demands more investigation and more interaction with the images, which is interesting given that these are fashion images, made for fleeting perusal in a magazine, seen for a mere minute and then committed to the paper recycling bin. And still, they are the sort of images (particularly the b/w ones) that you could put in a frame and hang on the wall. There is an arty feel to the b/w ones, possibly because of the unusual predominance of dark tones. They mystify, challenge the viewers’ imagination and enhance the perception. Little details like the shadow on the Adam’s apple or the balled fist with the highlights on the knuckles elicit an emotional response from the (female) viewer. The sitter’s inherent beauty is strangely secondary and yet aesthetics govern all other aspects of these images. There is conscious aestheticisation going on in these images, with very deliberate choices of lighting, composition and framing. But every time the aesthetics threaten to overpower the image, Mezibov takes a step back and throws a spanner in the works – emphasises shadows, obscures details, introduces tension.

We like what’s lurking in the shadows, don’t we… Especially if it is trying to be cool (click link to start soundtrack):

He had to admit – this was one hell of a nightclub. The kind of classy establishment you would only find in capital cities. It was all the rage now to convert disused buildings that had formerly had a grand or practical function and to leave the fittings intact. He had been to one or two “Warehouses” in his time, and the occasional “Church”. The “Abattoir” was a little too sterile for his liking (the acoustics on the tiles really did his finely tuned ears in), but a council chamber – nice one, very cosy, very plush. And well suited for well-suited people like himself. He sniggered and took another sip from his glass and surveyed the dancefloor from his position at the edge.

Thorin’s thoughts drifted. How had he ever ended up here? He vaguely remembered an awards ceremony where he had nearly head-butted the guest of honour. Whats’isname… that fella… in the grey three-piece suite, eh, suit… the minister of industry, Giraffe the Great or something like that. The “Captains of the Industry” Awards, yes. What a boring, dreary affair. The last straw had been when the winner had been announced. Erebor Mining had been shortlisted. Surely, a wild card. But trust the panel to waste their award on some esoteric eco-friendly shite. Greenwood Realm Engineering. Since when was wood-processing part of industry??? Greenwood MD Thierry Thranduil’s sick and false smile upon accepting the award had nearly made him retch. The vote was fixed! And he had drowned his wounded pride in a few glasses of wine. Well, barrels, more like…

He had been glad when his nephews had suggested they leave the poncy awards to the Elfin winners and check out the hottest nightclub in town. “The Council” had only just opened. A bit too much wood-panelling for his taste, but maybe that was only because he had had enough of woodland produce for tonight? He attempted to fix his flickering gaze back on the dancefloor. The music was class, though. One of his favourites was playing. He tapped his left foot in rhythm with the music. “Mint-julep testosterone… tell me that you want me”. Very catchy electro-rock. “Cool, I’m just tryna be cool”… he hummed along. Kili and Fili were in the middle of the heaving throng on the dancefloor, surrounded by adoring females. “To part-time holy bachelooooors… tell me that you want me, tell me that you want me”. Thorin snorted. Too right. That song had wormed its way right into his brain. Fuelled by the copious amounts of Pinot Noir that he had consumed, Thorin was unable to refrain from bobbing his head along with the music. “Cool, I’m jus’ try’na be cool… iz’all because of youuuu… some fanatic attitude”.

It escaped Thorin’s notice that his senior business partners Dwight Dwalin and Barry Balin had taken up position further behind him to his left, observing their CEOs drink-affected attempts at coolness with chuckles and barely contained glee. They nearly broke into loud laughter when Thorin accentuated the beat of the music with jerks of his tight little tuchus. “Open for bizniss sayzitalllll…”, he sang along at the top of his voice. “You can’t go wrong…Compliments sound too cynical where you’re from”. Too right again. Man, this was clairvoyant music. He had to rip that album off the torrent when he got back to Erebor. Thorin gave himself to the music and shoulder-danced the last verses of the song. “Gruesome… I don care whea ya froooom… Nothin’s that personaaaaal…The’s no physical evidence of cannibal boyfriends”, he giggled at the nonsensical lyrics and was just about to finish the song with a twirl, when his glance finally met Balin’s and Dwalin’s grins.

He suddenly felt sick. One of the wine barrels must have been dodgy. He turned, stalked away from the dancefloor and threw himself into one of the leather seats to the right of Balin and Dwalin. Closing his eyes, and attempting to forget what kind of a figure he must have cut to his pals, he leaned back and slipped down on the sleek leather of the seat. Oh Mahal. Dwalin sniggered loudly. Thorin desperately tried to drown out the unmistakable voice of his CLO from his left. “And I thought to myself then…” Thorin’s head snapped up in derision. But he had trouble fixing a truly withering look on his face. Balin deviously smirked: “…there is one who I could follow, there is one I could call King…”

~ by Guylty on February 11, 2014.

26 Responses to “*ooof*: Trying to be Cool”

  1. *ooof*, I love it…
    Illuminating my rudimentary knowledge of photography is great as always, spoiling us with your ficlets is terrific and background music is magnificient 🙂 Though I can´t play it, thanks to GEMA copyrights in Germany, I have it on my mind…
    I´m just drooling over my personal copy of the Esquire Magazine, so I beg your pardon for this non substantial comment 🙂

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    • Ugh – GEMA is such a spoil-sport, really. I hope you know the song. It is really cool – apart from the ludicrous lyrics (although they amuse me greatly…)
      Lucky you with your own copy of the mag. At least you get a large version of that yummy image there in front of your eyes. The available digital copies are rather small…

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  2. I’m so glad you did this one. It’s one of my favorites from the shoot. 🙂

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  3. I like this shot a lot…maybe it’s the b/w. The whole composition screams “bygone era” to me.

    Question…how much influence does the photographer have over the final selection of shots for publication? I’d imagine some level of editor must make selections from the whole array, but that the photog makes a case for or against certain pics?

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    • Well, the photographer does not submit all of the shots that were taken but only a previously agreed upon number of shots. So it is basically his/her own editing choice that the graphic designers/art directors of the magazine then have to work with. It’s highly likely that Mezibov has a good number of similar shots to this one in his archive which only differ in details – different look on the sitter’s face, slightly different angle, slightly different pose etc. It’s also possible that the art director of the magazine has given clear instructions on what kind of images they want, even poses or “feels” to the images…

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  4. I think the first thing that hits me is the shapes. The clarity of the sweeping lines and flat planes. I find them both relaxing and strong. One of the things I love best about black and white photography is the simplicity of the eye not having to struggle to reconcile a host of conflicting, busy shades. The straightforward shapes here multiply that.

    After that, as my brain relaxes but is also aesthetically pleased and is thus in an ideal place to open up to the image, what I notice first is the Old Hollywood glamour it connotes. Classy location, classy gentleman. And the gentleman himself — oof!

    The look on his face I find intriguing, compelling. He’s thinking something, possibly with ambivalence, maybe even with a hint of incredulity or wry amusement or. I want to know what. I want to know why. I find myself staring at the way the light dividing his face seems also to be dividing his expression.

    Basically, it’s the way the surface simplicity makes it so easy to look at, but further viewing becomes more engaging. Which also seems to be what you’re saying too. 🙂

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    • You have put that extremely well, Alyssa. I wish I had written that :-). I so agree with you – b/w is such a pleasure for the eye because we are not distracted by “garish” colours. Curves, lines and shapes – the composition as a whole – become much more important. They “drive” the aesthetic expression of such a shot. That doesn’t mean that you cannot do the same when you shoot colour. In fact, almost all shots originate in colour, anyway, and are only converted in post-production. And since we are seeing the world in colour, the b/w conversion has to happen initially in the photographer’s mind. Pretty cool, when you think about it…

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  5. EEK! Running out the door to work but getting a glimpse of this! My second favorite picture of this batch….ggg. Can’t wait to read the breakdown, C’mon Lunch!

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  6. Thank you for taking up this picture, Guylty! I love it for so many reasons, though at the beginning it annoyed me for some long unresolved reasons. That was because of the difference between the relaxed pose in general, while his body – not only his hand – indicate tension.
    I also love the triangle between the dots, or you can also take the fourth dot in the back, though I hate ‘flies’ and with the fourth dot the center would be somewhere there, so I prefer the triangle.

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    • Oooh, I didn’t notice the triangle marked by the dots. Great observation, C! (I think I need to up my game here a bit. My readers are catching up with me now :-))
      The tension you mentioned – IMO that is exactly what makes *any* image interesting: the inherent harmony or disharmony that focusses your mind. Disharmony is particularly interesting because it leaves scope for interpretation.
      I very often wonder, however, whether interpreting RA pictures has become skewed for me. I am somehow overfamiliar with the sitter, and I “know” too much. Sometimes, that can detract from the message…

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  7. Great choice. I have always liked this picture because of the curvature of the seating. I imagine he is sitting in some sort of rotunda type room waiting for entertainment to begin. Could be anything from theater in the round to chamber music or wrestling in giggling heaps of jello shots. His companion has just announced the program has been changed to a lecture on software vulnerabilities of oil corporations. It’s an “are you kidding me, I just got comfortable” face of one is annoyed with a disappointing change of plans. The lift of the eyebrow and the furrowed brow give off a “pissed off” vibe to me. Maybe that’s why Thorin slides into that photo and fanfic so easily.

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    • See, this is what is so great about discussing photography with you guys – people bring their own interpretation of the image to the table. And there are as many as there are people. I like your imagined scenario for this shot. (I admit – I stretch the interpretation of the images sometimes to fit my ficelt in…) Your scenario would’ve fitted with the Thorin/Erebor Mining Co. really well, too.
      I am wondering which image to do next. Anything come to your mind that contiinnues the Thorin storyline?

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      • I can’t think of a specific shot. Just giving off a grumpy attitude while maintaining a royal distance from the common folk. No smiling allowed. Arrogance and perhaps a hint of frost coming out of those cold blue eyes. Was there ever a photo shoot where he looked like he had a headache? Perhaps a candid where someone has just stepped on his toe? We know he can do haughty easily in roles.

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  8. Love this shot. It’s so Robert Mitchemesque. Man he was cool, too!

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    • Classy. Very masculine. Old school. Have you seen Mitchum in Ryan’s Daughter?
      But yeah, this has a touch of Hollywood glamour photography. Probably more due to the styling (tux) than the photographic style. But I see where you are coming from, Kitty!

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  9. Wow, this is a really interesting read, S. Think all your ideas about this wonderful b/w picture greatly impressing and fascinating. Actually now I love it even more… It’s only that my stubborn brain will not believe him to be Thorin (or is it more my mind’s/ fangirl’s eye?)…shrugs….. 😉

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    • Well the hair is a bit too short for this to be Thorin, I admit. But then again, this is a fluffy contemporary AU. And he looks so Thorin-esquely grumpy in the shots, it had to be him *ggg* There is one more Mezibov to *ooof* – I think that will be the end of the Erebor Mining AU 😉

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      • Grumpy, you are right (Erebor (Mining) is serious business, I know!!), but for me he’s the grumpiest in the backroom pic. Here he looks mighty fine, yeah, maybe a bit bored/ too cool. Even though, don’t you want to touch t/his hand and see what’s happening then?

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  10. […] New York photographer Blair Getz Mezibov seems to have a thing for photographing men. Many more of them than women in his portfolio. B/W seems to be a strong favourite, in which he creates a strong three-dimensionality of his subjects and the locations. ooof  ooof  ooof ooof ooof […]

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