*ooof*: Happy Birthday

Another year over. And what a year it was for R___ A___. Momentous experiences lie behind him – a film made and more or less finished (Black Sky), the excitement in the run-up to the movie premiere of the year, press junkets for The Hobbit and publicity shoots, red carpet events of a new scale, a huge response from the appreciative, female public, then a return to NZ and reconvening with friends and colleagues for remaining Hobbit-pick-ups, a new residence in NY (?), a whole new level of majesticity. And now another birthday. How quickly time is passing!

As I was pondering on how to celebrate A___’s birthday for his Army, I could not avoid the thought that birthdays mark the passing of time. Photography is the chronicler of maturing. Its propensity for documentary ideal for capturing the “state of now” for later. And how to better demonstrate the development of today’s birthday boy than by a look at photographs. As befits the occasion, I thus bring you

Mr A___ Through The Years –

A Comparative Study Of The Actor’s Headshots.

For the purpose of this extraordinary post, Guylty is deviating from her usual one-pic-only method. However, a chronological approach makes a thematic focus necessary in order to contain the amount of material otherwise at our disposal. The concentration on one particular type of photography therefore is deliberate. You can’t compare apples with peaches oranges, and therefore only shots that were taken with the same purpose can be contrasted. In view of the chronological approach, the passing of time seems particularly well documented in the actor’s headshots – undistracted by costume, and theatrical make-up and styling. A true visual time-line from the beginnings to the present. Unfortunately not all available images are dated, and therefore this study only takes those images into account that have a date attached – unless obsessive staring careful perusal and comparing has provided evidence for dating a shot. [A number of extra images exist in the ever-trusty archive on RAnet; however, they are not dated and will therefore be disregarded for this study.] The study in total, it must be pointed out, does not claim completeness. There is reason to believe that other images could be languishing in an obscure photographer’s archive, oblivious to the public’s thirst for more historical imagery of A___. But without further ado, let us start at the beginning.

4-Cats-1995

The earliest shot takes us back to 1995. Unfortunately the image is not all that easy to read – not only for the characteristic lack of context in an actor’s headshot, whose purpose it is exclusively to advertise the subject’s given wares, but also for the print effect over it. This is no doubt caused by the actual source of the image – a theatre programme from Cats, 1995, in which Armitage played, sang and danced Admetus and Macavity. We can be safe in assuming that this image originated on film – digital photography was still a while coming in 1995, and the image here is a scanned version. A portrait of the artist as a young man, a b/w headshot with all the trappings of bad 1990s passport photography. Those of us conscious in the times pre-biometric data may remember the unnatural poses we had to adopt for passport photography. Leaning into the frame with his head tilted and face slightly turned right, Armitage is exposing his left ear to the camera – the shape of the ear being a unique identifier, back then. The pose draws attention to the then-fashionable long tresses of the young A___. A sign of things to come? Guylty is reminded of a similar look, albeit more unruly and tousled, for season 3 of Robin Hood. A young Guy of Gisborne, anyone? The shoulder-length hair is similar, and the sweet, innocent smile could just about have fitted on the face of pre-corrupted Gisborne, the good, honourable heir to the Gisborne lands, just before his life and fate will take a turn for the worse and steer him into the arms of heinous crimes and evil masters. No, this is a smiling A___, mouth curling up in a shy plea for acceptance, eyes similarly genuine in their warmth, yet with a hint of timidity. The actor at the beginning of his career – a modicum of modesty and waryness at what Melpomene and Thalia may have in store for him allowed in the fresh-faced countenance.

7-DuchessofMalfi-2000

2000
Image via RAnet

Let us move on to the next image. An image from RA’s album of holiday snaps? One could be excused to think so, on account of the background that gives the impression that this image was taken outside. It is dated May 2000 and has been put into context with RA’s appearance in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Duchess of Malfi. Again, the faint lines in the image give away that this is most probably a scanned image, and thus not available at higher resolution. Here we have Mr A in a slightly hunched pose. He must be leaning on a table in front of him, scrunching up his shirt in the process. It passes muster as a headshot – despite the RL background – because it suitably concentrates on his face. R___ has grown a few years older. Much older, by the looks of it, because the boyish sweetness of the long-haired, shy youth has been replaced by a more mature look. The hair cropped short, some traces of a goatee – “Look, mum, I can grow a beard now!”Although the headshot is taken straight-on, we have a first taste of the characteristic A___ head-tilt here. Not quite as manly yet, Richie? But a nice portion of confidence in the open-eyed gaze that does not seem to back down. This is A___ at a time when he has established himself in a prestigious theatre ensemble, holding a steady acting job and stretching his legs as an acting professional. He is right to look pleased with himself – he has taken the next step on his path to ovary-busting world-domination. But this is the last time that he graces his future employers, casting agents and programme-perusing public with a semi-smile. Enjoy it while it lasts.

8-StarWarsAutographPic-2000

Star Wars Autograph, 2000
Image via RAnet

Because only a few months later we get a new headshot of A___, from September 2000. RAnet informs us that this is a Star Wars autograph picture. Whoa! Autograph pictures, specifically printed for the third Naboo fighter from the left? Somebody sure made an impression! But jokes aside, here we have a shot from the same period as before, but at better quality. RA has definitely left boyhood behind and is a man. That is not only evident from the filled-out face, but from the more confident, assertive pose that is apparent in the image. Has he copped on to the devastating stubble effect, yet? His face is rounder, the sharp angles of his forehead have become more visible. For the first time, an A___ headshot shows the deliberate professionalism of a studio-based headshot photographer. A___ is lit from the front with what appear to be two soft boxes, one illuminating him from above, one from below. There is no shadow on his face, except for the forehead angles. A look in his eyes tells us that the perspective of the camera is from slightly above him: the whites under his pupils are visible because he is looking up from under his brow. Is this the beginning of the smoulder? However, we have one of those corny poses again, probably with his right arm perched on his leg and his left arm crocked into his hip. This pose draws his left shoulder up and results in a fakey, relaxed pose. The effect is that of an air of assertiveness and aggressive leaning in. A strange mixture of a slightly curled up mouth but unsmiling eyes adds to my confusion.

12-SarahDunn-2002

Sarah Dunn, 2002
Image via RAnet

In 2002, Armitage appears completely different again. Where he previously looked older than his years, he now has a younger appearance. This is probably down to yet another a change in his facial shape: His chin appears more sculpted, less round and more defined. The beard has gone, and the hair is slightly longer. Is he lusting after his long locks of yesteryear? There is a slight tendency towards the mullet here… (Gisborne is calling…) The style of the photograph is yet another departure of previously seen headshots. I am tempted to christen this “The Space Invader”, as it is a very close close-up, shot with a large apertureSarah Dunn by . A___’s eyes, chin and cheeks are in sharp focus whereas other parts his head fall off. The result is a stunning emphasis on his very bright and large eyes. The lack of catchlights in them, however, is startling. It implies a lack of life, and the stare can easily be interpreted as piercing and demonic. While the pose is not necessarily new, the perspective of the camera is certainly different – the subject is shot from above, so A___ has to crane his neck to the side and up *ouch*. No wonder he is pouting. Such delicious lips But for my taste, the pose and point of view are slightly too intense if not too close for comfort.

14-Richard-date-unknown

2002 (?)
Image via RAnet

With camera angle and settings more or less identical to the previous shot, I am hazarding the guess that the next image is taken by the same photographer, on the same occasion – again we have the view from above with a large aperture. There are no dates and credits available for this image, but POV and aperture could be pointing to the signature style of a particular photographer (at a certain phase), and my hunch is that this is also an image by Sarah Dunn. In fact, as headshot session are often sold in a package, this could have been a shoot that included one constume change. Hence the white shirt and a slightly different tousled hairstyle than in the previous image. And lo and behold! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a smile. A cheeky, mischievous one, but a smile no less – another hint that this could be the second of a two-shoot-package in which actors are paying for two different headshots with two different facial expressions.

HeadshotColour-ClaireNewmanWilliams

Claire Newman Williams, 2010 (?)
Image via RAnet

Finally we come to the current actor’s headshot of l’A___. This was shot by Claire Newman Williams, but no date is given. The haircut on A___’s pretty head points to May 2010 when he sported a short haircut with a pronounced fringe. (cf. Interview with Lorraine Kelly). In this shot, his hair is nicely trimmed and carefully styled with strands of hair falling onto his forehead. There is a nice twinkle in R___’s eye, cause by a softbox from above right, a good angle to lighten up his angular forehead, too, as the angle on his left is drowned out by the light and the one on the right hidden underneath the fringe. Finally, R___ has also made the stubble his signature look, and proudly wears the vestiges of his masculine facial hair on his chin and cheeks. As mentioned in a previous, pre-me+richard *ooof*, there is evidence of Photoshop in this image. This is a big no-no as the signs of ageing should really be left in Richard’s photos. Or that is what his fans think. But that is not what the vain subject wants, or agents and casting directors, for that matter, and thus the laughter lines around Armitage’s eyes have been ‘shopped, possibly also some shadow lines on that forehead, after all. The image, however, places a nice emphasis on the bright eyes of the subject, and the pale skin against the dark background and shirt. The head is only very slightly tilted downwards. As much as the actor’s headshot works as a possible foil for the casting directors’ imagination, I don’t find the image entirely neutral. The demeanor and gaze of the subject give the impression of an assertive, open, confident, not quite smouldering man. It is easy to imagine the brooding master from this image – a reference that can only work in A___’s favour with Thornton being one of his most loved roles. There is a hint of “dangerous” in the shot, possibly because of a slightly more closed right eye which gives him an appraising gaze. It is, however, easy to imagine a laugh on this youthful face, as well as a snarl. All in all a headshot that ticks all the boxes.

It is probably not much wonder that my subjective preference lies with the current headshot of Mr A. Even if he currently does not really look like this – his hair style is different, the stubble has often been replaced by a beard, and the lines have become a bit more present and pronounced to my delight, Richard, not my dismay, so calm down – this is pretty much a portrait of the artist as a (nearly) middle-aged man, as he is now. As has been said so often – the passing of time has been gentle with Armitage. He has aged very attractively, and certainly appeals to me more in his current look than as his younger self. Although that is also a reflection on my own advancing in years, but that is an issue for the therapy couch and not an Armitage appreciation blog. However, from the chronological comparison of the headshots we can glean certain insights. As A___ has passed from youth to middle-age, so has also developed his look and the manifestation of his (actor’s) personality in his outward appearance. As the years have worn on, A___ has become better at posing – from a representation of self at the beginning, through some confused mixtures of man and actor, he has arrived at an actor who can pose effectively and devastatingly for the purpose of a headshot. His personal style has changed over the years – a reflection of the fashions of the times from long hair on a young man, through the slightly anachronistic mullet to the crisply styled hair of the successful celebrity actor. The comparison of the images has also made evident that with growing success, celebrity and bankability he has been able to employ better and better photographers. With their expertise they have created interesting set-ups or POVs that stand out from the rest of the photography – i.e. Newman Williams black-on-black approach (a personal favourite of mine) or the mock-intimacy of the angle from above by Dunn. Particularly Claire Newman Williams has delivered a great job (although I must admit that it certainly helps having a high-res version of her image to peruse.) Notwithstanding the fact that there are no credits available for the early headshots, I find it interesting if not telling that the two most recent headshots were taken by women photographers.

Does a look back in time make you sentimental? There is a certain loss of youth in evidence, that’s for sure. But apart from the signs of ageing or the change in body shape, photography documents other aspects of time, too – the growth in self-awareness, the developing self-confidence or the progressive and accumulative experience evident in the images. Photography is forever, too, Mr A___, and yes, you are not the young colt you once were. But there is more to enjoy in your looks and your performance than ever – the edges and lines add to the mystery, they challenge to decode, to associate, and to interpret. Age is merely a number. And sometimes, big is good. Happy birthday.

35 thoughts on “*ooof*: Happy Birthday

  1. Guylty – I’ve never been here before. What a great birthday treat for an R.A. celebration. Oddly, I don’t care for the 2002 shots,and prefer the 2000 photos. The earlier ones actually remind me of the RA of today- maybe it’s the stubble or shadow and the shape of the hairline defined by the brushed back style. .Still, it never ceases to surprise me how different he can look just by changing his hairstyle and facial hair.Of course he has aged – but as we have all agreed before, and yes- maybe it is a reflection of our own *advanced* age, he’s more manly and appealing now. He’s more substantial. Still, I am reminded of the Heinz Kruger look in CA- and wouldn’t mind seeing that again at least once.before the opportunity passes.
    Oh Hell- I don’t know, I want to keep seeing them all.

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    • Hey Perry – you found my (rather empty) home. I am ruthlessly rooming with Servetus because it is more fun together than being on my own ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I have always been a fan of baby-faced men, but strangely, with RA, that has completely changed. While I do like the young pup from 1995 (because I associate the times and my own experiences of the 1990s with that image), I am more into the youthful, yet certainly mature version of RA. I really liked the whole look of 2010, when he was between SB and CA. His current incarnation is not quite my favourite – I always loved the fringe and I am an outspoken enemy of the beard – but since it is *him* under the quiff and the facial tresses, I’ll forgive him anything ๐Ÿ˜‰ especially as the personality underneath all the beautiful veneer seems to have stayed the same. Thanks for commenting! x

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    • Yes, so unfair. He gets to look better with age. How does he do it? Witchcraft, sorcery, evil… Nah, he just looks after himself, I guess. Maybe I should take a leaf out of *that* particular book… Thanks for commenting, Marie! x

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    • Hello Miss Mel. I am glad you have found us/me – all new RA-enthusiasts welcome. He is so worth it ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting – hope you got some new info there!

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  2. Happy Birthday Richard! He just keeps getting better looking with age, not that he looks old at all. Maybe it is about me with the age factor, I tend to like guys close to my own age.

    Thank you Guylty for this special birthday *ooof*, how fitting to have a look over the years.

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    • Yeah, Katie, I find that is the case with me, too – I seem to stay within my own age bracket. Mind you – I used to adore Colin Firth and Keanu Reeves who are a few years older than me. Neither of them had the pull that RA has on me. But maybe that is another reflection of my age… In any case, it was fun looking at him over the years. I don’t think he has to worry about his age at all.

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  3. Beautifully written and very thorough, as always ๐Ÿ™‚
    The headshots taken throughout the years serve as a reminder that Richard just gets better with age.
    Happy Armitage Day!!!

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    • Yes, he does get better with age. Or rather – he has been constantly attractive for a good ten years at this stage. He’s very sweet eyecandy ๐Ÿ˜‰ Happy Armitage Day to you, too! x

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  4. Happy Armitage Day,Guylty! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was beautiful.
    I would be enamored right then and there, in 1995 ๐Ÿ˜‰ love his eyes of a dreamer.

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  5. Thank you so much, do you have a good German “Haftpflichtversicherung” that cares if Iยดll be brought to hospital because all oofing is over? NO, itยดs all on my own risk… Love the pics, but back in 1995 he would never have been (correct grammar?) my object of personal desire.

    I donยดt like the pic from the IMDB side (suppose it was 2007 or 2008 ?) because of the photoshopping, but youยดre the expert, Iยดm still the amateur.

    LG,

    Ute

    P.S.: Great post as always…

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    • Oh goodness, my liability insurance is not up to scratch. I better continue *ooof*ing so you do not suffer from withdrawal then :-).
      Yep, in the 1990s he would not have fitted my preference for boys. I was always into puppy-faced guys, but not into long-haired ones. And I preferred blondes. But hey, I eventually saw the light *ggg*.
      The photoshopping in the current headshot makes me angry, too. Completely unnecessary. But the picture is recognisably him, and therefore I can live with it.
      Thanks for commenting! xx

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  6. Loved this! Two things always strike me when gazing upon Richard Armitage portraits:
    1) he seems to be able to appear older or younger–mostly younger–at whim; Ha!
    and
    2) That 1995 shot from CATS means that he was 24 years old!?! RA doesn’t look a day over sixteen. Ha! And the circa 2002 portrait was the same era that he portrayed the big burly cuddly John Standring. Sighhh! But what a contrast in his appearance!

    Basically, not only is RA an acting chameleon, but he is also a physical chameleon as well. Ha! And as you say, photoshopping and lighting help a great deal. Ha!

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    • He really looked much older than his years when he was young, didn’t he? Well, not in 1995, but the early 2000s. For a while in his late 30s he looked younger than his years. Now, I think, it is balancing out. I think that is nice – but I suspect for a man in *that* business, it may not. Well, thank Cod for make-up artists and lighting technicians *ggg*. – But he is a chameleon, nonetheless ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  7. I’m a little late to the party here, but I really enjoyed these comparisons ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not all that crazy about any of his head-shots, but it’s nice to see how he’s matured in looks through the years. I guess my favorite of these would be the 2nd one: heavy emphasis on the eyes, and the neck/adam’s apple too ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  8. I’m really late reading this. But your writing and analyses are amazing as always.
    I’m in my midd 20s so I’m little bit younger than RA, but I do think he looks mutch hotter now than he did when he was in his 20s and early 30s. I like that he looks little more scruffier, so sexy and there is something very young in his appearence even if he probabaly looks like his age.

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    • Nice to hear the perspective of a younger member of the fandom, Thora. I agree with you, btw. I like his looks now much more than his younger self, but I have often wondered whether that reflects my own age (identical to his)… Thanks for your comment! x

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

  10. Pingback: Emergency *ooof*: Moving | GUYLTY PLEASURE

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