*spooof*: Meet Mr Awkward A___

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?

something bollixed

Was this as traumatic as it looks?
R___ A___ in a photo by Drew Gardner, taken in 2006.
Image sourced via RAnet

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.

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34 thoughts on “*spooof*: Meet Mr Awkward A___

  1. I must say Guy-lty, you do manage to sniff out some really awful pictures!

    I would love to know the story behind the styling in this photo – did someone seriously think this was a good look for him?

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    • Hehehe, yes, Bolly – but this whole shoot would have merited a whole *month* of FanstRA *spooof*s, I can tell you. I had such a hard time deciding *which* of the shudderingly unattractive images I should choose for a detailed horror analysis.
      The styling and look has me flabberghasted as well. There are two looks in the shoot – both featuring the horrible grey slacks – but one with a plain white shirt, the other with the grey stripey one. In both instances the shirts are worn outside the trousers – I don’t remember that being a particular fashion statement in the mid-2000s? My hunch is that there was no stylist involved, really, but that photographer and subject met up at the location and did what they had to do. With Armitage’s self-confessed fashion-illiteracy, this kind of gaffe might be explained? A browse through RAnet’s excellent collection of press cuttings reveals that a picture from this shoot was used in an article for the Daily Mail http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/articlescans/WeekendMag_09Sep2006.jpg I suspect it was just made for that purpose, and not as a fashion shoot. Interestingly, in my research I noticed that the Victoria & Albert Museum uses one of the images from the shoot as illustration on their information page on commercial photography and filming in the museum. http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/7169

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  2. Pingback: *spooof*: Meet Mr Awkward Armitage | FanstRAvaganza

  3. Ughh yeah, you are SO RIGHT. The clothes are wrong, the pose is off and the background is way too busy. Haven’t really thought of WHY the photo doesn’t sit right with me before, but you’ve nailed it. 🙂

    Also: THANK YOU. The word “aperture” has been bugging me for days! I could think of what it’s called in Swedish, but for the English word, I drew a complete blank. Aperture, that’s the one!

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    • Yeah, it’s weird with photos – we often instinctively know that something is wrong about them but can’t quite tell what. Sometimes it just needs a bit of time and close perusal of an image and we can figure it out.
      Glad to be of help there with “aperture” – English isn’t my native language, either, but in my case it often goes the other way with “Photographese” – I find it hard to think of the German words for photographic jargon…

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  4. Your posts have been my favourites so far on fanstravaganza, hehe. Mybe because I love photography, fashion, modelling and beautiful people. It’s fascinating to see when it goes wrong.
    In this picture the face is al right, but everything else is a nightmare.

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    • Well I suppose the saving grace is that Mr Armitage is the subject. I mean, honestly, the man can singlehandedly turn a 19th century cotton mill into a sensuous love cave. Ahem. Possibly the stiff collars and the intricate cravats that are so sorely absent in this shoot helped…

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  5. Nice place you’ve got here. 😉

    Yes, I have to agree that this picture is dreadful. BUT the saving grace was – *whispers softly* It’s GUY. I could crop his face and be perfectly happy. Don’t ya see???

    As for the school boy scenario, I’d help that poor young man — oh wait, no, no, no! Now why did you have to do that to me? 😉

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    • Thanks for the comment, Judiang! Yes, it’s the Guy phase, isn’t it? Mullet city!!!
      And the schoolboy scenario is getting more and more attractive by the minute. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

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  6. I cannot STAND that shoot LOL! It’s one of the reasons I try not to focus on Armitage images prior to Spooks. It’s (almost) an entire bunch of: What the hell were people thinking!!!
    It’s like it was all one big dare to make Richard look very bad, and that’s one hell of a feat!
    The clothes from this shoot should be burned, but that amount of man-made fiber would probably create poisonous gases! If you can find proper clothes for the man, photograph him without… 😉
    By the way, I love the Spooof series. It’s like Ooof! but with a lisp LOL!

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    • LOL – I love your tagline for the *spooofs* – “*ooof* but with a lisp”. Too right – the tiny little imperfection in the whole perfect universe of the Armitage oeuvre. Hehe, *evillaugh* it takes a devil to advocate this 😉
      You are actually absolutely right – we should all be much more bloody minded and simply ignore all the horrible images that were produced pre-Spooks. Except on occasions such as FanstRA – when anything goes. Your comment about burning the clothes and poisonous gases really made ROFL! Thanks for commenting, Agzy!

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  7. I love his facial expressions in a couple of the pictures from this shoot actually (the Guy channeling thing) but the clothes were just horrendous. Fabric, color, the untucked shirt. Terrible. I think I did like his watch LOL

    Richard was clearly uncomfortable and I don’t think the photog made any effort to lessen that. And with Richard–a beautiful work of art in and of himself–an ornate background is clearly not needed. As other shoots have so well illustrated. 😉

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    • Well said, fedoralady – he IS a beautiful work of art himself. Placing him where he is in this shot, is like carrying coals to Newcastle. *sigh* I would BET that this was shot by a man. *doublesigh* They just don’t get it…

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  8. LOL.

    The slacks are also completely the wrong cut for him; the coin on the leather strand is actually a Gucci ingot, although of course that can’t be seen from this distance. Jonia found some very hi res copies of these photos and was able to identify it.

    I hadn’t considered the “how to stand” direction issue — that was very interesting.

    And completely agree re the background. The first time I saw these photos I got involved trying to diagnose whether these are medieval/Renaissance or neo-medieval / Renaissance backgrounds — they reminded me of some sarcophagi with pleurants I had seen in Burgundy on a previous vacation — and sort of ignored the subject.

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    • Glad to hear that your experience supports my theory that the background is highly distracting. The only explanation I have for the photographer to keep the background in sharp focus, too, is that he was already shooting this as promo material for the V&A in mind.
      The whole issue of direction is one that I used to struggle with greatly when I started shooting people (*um* that sounds wrong… photographing people… *lol*). As a budding photographer I found it quite hard to take control and tell my sitters how to move, where to look, what pose to assume. It was actually when I was sitting for others that I realized how stranded you feel as the sitter when noone tells you what to do. This wouldn’t apply to professional models of whom it is expected to move and “offer” various poses. Depending on how comfortable RA is with modeling and sitting, he may have picked that up since then and a debacle such as the V&A shoot might not befall him again… I suspect, however, that he sees himself as an actor, not a model, and as such he *always* wants a certain amount of direction.
      The “coin” – of course, yes, now that you mention it, I remember that I read that on Jonia’s blog, too… Gucci gold, how weird…

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  9. I agree with you, although I don’t see things as badly as you do. This was not a great photo shoot. The clothes and the poses are all wrong. And what’s up with the location? The background is not one that I would choose for Richard. To me Richard also looks bored and as if he can’t wait to get it over with.

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    • Thankfully, the days of such shoots seem to be over. If we look at the beautiful images that have come our way since last year (ignoring the honking hooter in yesterday’s *spooof*), we can safely assume that RA will never look as uncomfortable as that again. Or that he has a capable publicist who vets all images before they see the light of day…

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  10. Guylty, I love your gallery of cheesiness! You are right, this pics deserved a closer look especially with such elaborate und eye-opening clarifications from you which almost bring tears to my eyes (!!!). I love the V&A and I adore RA but the two of them together are probably a bit overwhelmingly grey…..
    Nevertheless it’s amazing what we all missed so far, only because we flinched from oggling and never realised those photos in their full splendour!! Gasp!! Bondage actually never crossed my mind, when just blinking at this particular bare-chested „Lee Preston Promo“. Quite exciting! LOL. Who would have thought that they were so ahead of their time! 😉 As my PC has gone on „unannounced holidays“ dead on time when Fanstravaganza started on Monday, I now have to catch up an awful lot of new stuff.
    Please, go on with your quite fetching, yet mind-blowing investigations. 😛

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    • “Gallery of Cheesiness” that’s a fitting nomer for this series. So cheesy, they stink!! Haha.
      Thank you for the lovely adjectives you have used in your comment – I am chuffed and very happy right now, having my posts called “fetching” etc. Thanks for the support – it means a lot to me, truly. And I will continue with the *ooof* series, definitely!
      Bussibussi 😉

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      • Mmmmhh S., genuinely enjoyed your Bussis (esp in the absence of Richard’s…..cough) 😉
        What’s really funny is that it is but now as I’m just sitting at another PC that I can see what you all were talking about. On my screen at home the shirt with those stripes (pattern?) was strangely enough not as “blurry” (und Augenkrebs erzeugend!) as it appears now. Quite freaky.

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        • Yeah, my retina display laptop shows the whole psychedelia of the grey shirt whereas my PC monitor somehow doesn’t. Hypnotizing, possibly nauseating…
          On a different note – I have run out of duds!!! What will I write about tomorrow??? Arrrrrgh! Off to RAnet to dig in some old shoots…

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  11. So true, GP,
    That moire like pattern on the shirt gives me headaches every time. You would think the photographer would have known that. Although, that one shot of RA sitting on the stairs in the white shirt is quite smoulder worthy. Ha!
    Cheers! Grati

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    • Oh Ladies, you are all far too well-versed with RA iconography. You all know that shoot inside-out – and can zoom in on the one redeeming image that was born from it. Trying to think whether I have actually ever *ooof*ed that. I might do – although I still don’t think it is one of the overall good ones.

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  12. Eeek!
    There a few Armi photoshoots from back in the day that make me cringe every time I come across them. And this is one of them.
    His shirt reminds me of one of those “magic eye” images…basically, it offends my retinas!
    And yes, his wee expression is close to a frown. Or he’s thinking: “pleeeease let this be over soon!”
    Bless his cottons!
    Xx

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    • Cringecity alright! He probably knew that himself, I can see him thinking what you said – “I need to get outta here”. Aw, poor, poor Richard.
      I would *so* love to know what he thinks about these images himself. I imagine he has the Stromboupoulous-reaction – hiding behind his hand over his eyes…

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      • Aw, yes, you’re probably right! Poor love!
        I guess there are a fair number of photos out there that he would like to bury…!
        Xx

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  13. Thank you again for a great post. Lots to say on this one, the background is to busy . The clothes make him look washed out, and look as if they belong in the pile to be burned with my husbands outside job stuff, stand back and lets get that job done. Really I don’t think we will see Richard looking like this now. I do see Guy in this photo and if they would say had him in black leather jacket and maybe black jeans with a black t-shirt or maybe white.

    As for the school boy, I would help that lost school boy in a heart beat. Why didn’t I have a guy like him in my school? It is easy for me to think about it, since I was a year behind in school and the guys where about his age.

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    • Hehe, I am round about his vintage, too, Katie – I remember the mullet when it was in fashion *arrrrgh*. Mind you, never on so attractive a boy/man. –

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    • Yes, that picture does evoke certain maternal feelings in me. There is something cute and forlorn about him. Maybe even *because* of the horrible clothes. You just feel like rescuing him…

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  14. Pingback: Happy Armitage-Day with a List of Photo Shoots | GUYLTY PLEASURE

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