When looking over my FanstRA submissions so far, one might be inclined to think that I bear ill-will towards Mr A___ – hellish side-partings, cheesy pose, oversized hooter. I really have it in for him, don’t I? No. I am just using the opportunity to talk about less-than-perfect pictures. For the fun of it. Because I like to be contrary.
Today I really have a total gem for you, dear *spoof*ers. It doesn’t get much worse than this. The whole series of photographs this image comes from is what I would call a little shop of horrors. Because so much is wrong about this weird mix of a fashion shoot and half-length portrait – gruesome styling, awkward poses and an uncomfortable looking RA. Why oh why?
Let’s start with the positives: The pictures were taken in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.This is actually a very interesting location in general, with some impressive mid-19th century architecture to choose from. A___ is standing in front of an ornately decorated exhibit – possibly a sarcophagus? – The lighting in the shot is artificial but very well balanced: A light is lighting up the background separately from the right (of the sitter). The face of our subject is nicely and evenly lit from front left. There is no spill between the two lighting set-ups, which means both components of the image get enough illumination. However, the three-quarter sidelighting does already cause problems in that it emphasises the creases in the shirt.
In the case of this shoot I am not sure whether the chosen locations within the museum really benefit A___ and set him off favourably. Personally speaking, I think that A___ does not need an ornate background to add interest. In fact, the busy background greatly de-tracts and distracts from the subject. Instead of providing a mere canvas, the gaze is drawn to the female figures on the exhibit – we are asked to look away from R___. Why the hell would we want to do that??? IMHO the photographer should have shot this with a very large aperture. Focussing on the subject at f5.6 or less would have blurred out the distractions in the background and allowed A___ to command all the attention in the centre of the image. And not only that – it would have made a lighting set-up with two flashes unnecessary: If the background is out of focus anyway, we do not need to light the details. Ergo we could’ve done without a fill from behind. It would also have not been quite as apparent that the perspective has not been chosen well: A___ has been placed at a slight angle to the railings. The photographer himself has lined himself up parallel to A___ . But that means the artefact in the background is at an angle and the lines now appear just off-horizontal, an effect that our brain probably registers as slightly unsightly.
Instead of taking the opportunity to smoulder, A___ here cuts are rather defiant figure. He is leaning with his left arm on a railing, his head angled down-left. The photographer has taken this shot from about chest level, but instead of turning this into the smouldering gaze, A___ almost frowns – no smile, the lips are in a straight line. With his head at the characteristic angle, he comes across as shy, unsure, embarrassed. Sure, modelling can be an uncomfortable situation, especially if there are onlookers around (which there easily could’ve been as this is a public museum). Are his shoulders hanging down in frustration? To me it all appears as a display of misery – I see resignation, sadness, doubts, possibly even a lack of confidence.
Well, in hindsight we can say “Don’t worry, Mr
Awkward A___ , you will get better at expressing doubt in a more elegant way” – I am thinking of the b/w full length portrait shot for Project Magazine or the Fault shoot. He will also become better at acting/modelling on shoots, although in this case the gauche pose could stem from both inexperience as well as a possible lack of direction on the V&A shoot – to me, this smacks of a photographer who has only looked at the composition and framing of the image and therefore only told his sitter where to stand but not how.
The choice of clothes for our lovely subject doesn’t really evoke ovary stirrings. While grey may be a fashionable shade for
bad erotica interior design, this particular hue of grey is not particularly flattering against Armitage’s skin. I find he looks rather peaky-pale in this particular dove-grey outfit – fit for a grey eminence, maybe, but not a hot young man. Moreover, the shirt he is sporting has thin stripes. In the condensed version of the (rather large digital) image, this is scrunched into a rather psychelic effect – one of the reasons why thin stripes and geometric patterns are usually avoided by TV-people or anyone appearing on camera. Do I need to say anything about the trousers? Ok, just for the record: For f*ck sake!!! Grey slacks. *facepalm* *headdesk* *eyeroll*
As if that wasn’t enough, the stylist really should’ve stepped in and asked R___ to tuck in his shirt. Likewise, they should’ve spotted R___’s jewellery. The informality of the coin on a simple leather band (while very cute-ly individual and possibly a sign of sentimentality that I would otherwise very much approve of) clashes with the formality of slacks and a shirt. As it is, the whole ensemble, together with R___’s own necklace, evoke the rather unpleasant association of British school uniforms. I can see throngs of teenage boys streaming through the school gates, backpacks over their shoulders, blazers open, shirts half hanging off their arses.
But wait, now the whole pose makes sense: We are right back in Little R___’s youth, the mid-80s, when the mullet was alive and kicking, and A___ (b. 1971) rocked the schoolboy outfit (before he went on to the luscious long tresses of his musical theatre years). A___ is acting the little schoolboy lost. They had been taken out on a tour to the big museum in the big bad city *corrrr*, and little Richie got separated from his group. Now schoolboy A___ is waiting to be picked up. Wow – I think I may be on to an interesting kink there.