*ooof*: da-da da-Dunn, da-Dunn, da-Dunn-da-Dunn-da-Dunn

Not sure if you are getting my reference there in the title. I am trying to represent Henry Mancini’s iconic Pink Panther theme to set the mood for today’s *ooof*. And now it is clear which of the latest Dunn photos I am going to talk about…

Dunn beardhate 2

Beard on the run? Richard Armitage hides his #periodweirdbeard in a photo by Sarah Dunn (2014)

Is Dunn the new Ascroft? At the beginning of 2013 we were teased and tickled by a seemingly never-ending trickle of Armitage images by photographer Robert Ascroft. Dunn has obviously shot plenty of images of her buddy Armitage, too, and Armitage in turn is doing his best to promote them. As a result – and no doubt thanks to the impending release of the third Hobbit film – we are being treated to a flurry of new RA pictures. Too many to keep up with *ooof*ing them all. Well, at least for now. But luckily they won’t run away.

Running away, however, is exactly what Armitage is doing in today’s *ooof*. For the two people who don’t know the context of the image: In August 2014 Armitage announced via Twitter that he was going to pose for Dunn for new images due for the Hobbit release. At that time still on the London stage as John Proctor in TC, Armitage was vainly unhappy about what he termed the “Proctorian 1692 Salemite period weird beard” and asked his Twitter followers to suggest ways of hiding the “facial thatch” in the photo shoot. Three of the recent Dunn images are the result of that scheme – the objective being to hide the Proctor beard in a shoot that was of Armitage, the man. The picture above puts the beard-hate into a humourous context. In it we see RA dressed in black trousers and a woollen coat. He has turned up the collar of the coat and is hiding the lower half of his face behind it. Not quite successfully – I see a bit of beard peeking out behind the collar.  Armitage is pictured mid-stride, walking from (our) left to right. His body almost at a 90° angle, he is slightly hunched forward in the walking pose and has turned his head almost directly at the camera. He is not connecting his gaze with the viewers’ but is looking slightly to the left of the camera. This, as well as the walking stride and the use of the coat’s collar as a prop, make him look like a man who is trying not to be seen. A spy on a mission? A PI discreetly observing a target? Or is it just the beard on the run, avoiding detection?

I quite enjoy the way this image tickles my imagination. In contrast to the other two beard-hate images from the same series, this one is telling a story. Where the other images were static poses, this one involves movement. It contains more clues to a possible scenario than the image of RA with his hand covering most of his face, or the head and shoulders version of the collar image. As a viewer, I can pick up these clues and concoct from them a story. I may see less of RA himself – because he appears smaller in a (near) full-length than in a close-up – but thanks to my frankly quite creepy familiarity with all features anatomical of the man I can imagine more.

As a photographer I also appreciate the technical skill that goes into producing this image as opposed to the other two. Static poses are comparatively easy to photograph. Movement OTOH is always a bummer in photography. If you want a sharp picture of your subject in movement, you have to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to “freeze” the movement without blur. Working in studio conditions with strong flashes and with a bright white background, Dunn can quite easily control that – at the cost of having a slightly distracting shadow of RA in profile on the backdrop and some glare at the bottom. The shutter speed for studio lights is 1/160 s – which will easily freeze the movement without blur. In the past photographers often cheated when it came to capturing movement in a picture. Take for instance Helmut Newton’s famous image “They are coming” of four models walking towards his camera. Except they didn’t walk at all. They had to hold their poses to look as if they were walking. (Click the link to compare the two Newton images and spot the mistake that slipped through! Case in point!) However, Armitage in this image *does* walk. You can tell by the way the coat-tail has flapped open and is trailing behind because he is moving forward. It takes a number of tries to get that *one* shot where everything comes together. How often did Armitage walk back and forth in front of that backdrop???

The focussing is more challenging. Whether using autofocus or manual focus, the photographer basically has to tell the camera which part of the set-up to focus on. When a subject is moving, that is much harder to do, as the subject can move in and out of the focus area within a split second. The solution to the problem is setting an aperture that produces a long depth of field, i.e. a high f-stop number. This way Dunn gets all parts of the image into sharp focus. Using a very small aperture, however, means that less light comes through it onto the sensor. So she needs strong light to illuminate her sitter, especially as he is dressed all in black. At least the backdrop is white – that means more light will be reflected back into the camera. However, the difficulty is that she will lose the details of the black coat if she meters the lighting for the face – and she will overexpose the face if she meters for the black coat. Thank goodness for the current trend for overexposed, pristine white backgrounds. Dunn seems to have a weakness for them – last year’s Hobbit portraits were shot the same way. And she replicates them here (at least for the beard-hate images).Personally, I am not overly fond of that particular set-up. Slightly overexposed portraits on a white background are a fad and have been over-used – is there anyone who hasn’t got one of those ubiquitous family portraits of smiley happy people in front of a glaring white background? It’s the mottled brown 1980s high school photo background of the 21st century… Over the hill – as soon as such set-ups appear in the shop window of your local photographer, you know that the trend is ice-cold. A deep black background, for instance, is much more dramatic, allows you to meter fully for the sitter, and makes him/her stand out from the background in full glory.

Dunn beardhate 2 linesMind you, that is a scathing but merely a personal opinion based on my penchant for all things black… I really like the way Dunn has directed Armitage here. I like how the edge of the coat happens to run from his hand upwards to be continued by the bridge of the nose. Total hand-porn alert! That thumb is giving us directions right up to the gorgeous, slightly intense stare. The whole image is defined by (almost-)right angles – the right angle of the coat edge at the bottom, the almost-square expanse of skin of RA’s half-hidden face, the forearm across the body, the square created by the angled arm and shoulder and coat edge. The composition seems like a collection of rectangles, stacked on each other, with the smallest square jauntily perched on top like a Christmas pressie toppling off a pile of presents… (see picture right).

There are no doubts that Dunn has skill. And the criticism that I come up with are niggles. I am not particularly fond of her editing choices in general. Here she cuts off RA’s shins *ouch* but leaves negative space at the top of the image. With the interesting angular pose of the arm and the angled head, this could’ve made a fabulous half-length portrait with the added bonus of possibly giving us a bigger, more detailed view of the sexy thumb hand and face. But as I said, I am niggling. She produces attractive images of Armitage although I am not entirely sure whether they truly reflect the personal relationship between photographer and sitter. Armitage and Dunn have emphasised their friendship, calling each other “favourite photographer” and “love you, matey”, indicating familiarity and enjoyment of each others’ company. When working together, being comfortable with each other is a huge advantage – I can easily see RA putting on all sorts of antics in order to get a great image for his friend. But I don’t find these images more personal than those by Ascroft or Hassler or any other studio-based photographer.

Or is that because Dunn’s photos of RA seem to be received controversially within the fandom? There is, of course, the usual *thud*, *sigh* and *OMG* when they first appear – especially on sharing-friendly networks such as Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. But there is also criticism regarding Dunn’s quid pro quo approach to releasing new photos of RA. Many people feel really put off by that. Dunn’s demand request for likes and follows in exchange for new photos, is seen as exploitative or abusive, or as if she is devaluing something by making it a commercial transaction. There are various points to be made about this. First of all, the way Dunn chooses to publish her photos should not detract from the simple enjoyment of the photo or the appreciation of the technical and creative skills of the photographer. I do not think that my judgment of any image should be influenced by how it was obtained or came to the attention of the public (paparazzi crap excluded). Whether an image is “good” – interesting, funny, exciting, aesthetically pleasing, well-composed, well-edited or technically brilliant – should be determined by the content of the picture not the context of its origins. That is not to say you can’t be disenchanted with the marketing ploy that surrounds Dunn’s photo releases, but here comes the second point: Photography for Dunn *is* a commercial enterprise. She takes these images for a living. *Of course* she wants to get more out of them than the simple pleasure of having produced a beautiful shot, or the praise and satisfaction that comes along with that. Thirdly, I just don’t get what the fuss is about – we *are* still getting to see her images of RA for free. Even if we are urged to like and to favourite – it doesn’t cost us anything to do so, we can see the image. And we can easily unlike and unfavourite with the click of a button. I guess I am slightly defending her position – but the main message is: Don’t let her marketing antics put you off enjoying her photographic work. Long live that creative friendship! We benefit.

BTW, this is my imagined coat scenario:

Shopping. Never his favourite occupation. But his curiosity had been piqued. His Hobbit buddy had talked about a shop that catered for the needs and demands of the celebrity shopper. “Your star is rising, Rich, and you probably need to prepare yourself for the changing needs of your new life in the eye of the public.” Well, he had assumed that that was why he had signed up with his personal stylist. But his colleague had emphatically suggested he drop into the shop when he was in London for the Hobbit premiere and mumbled something about “discreet”, “innovative” and “napkins”. A bizarre combination, but simultaneously intriguing.

“This menswear shop better have some classy threads”, he thought to himself as he ambled to the shop. “Need new red carpet outfit after sofa prints, gandalf-greys and black tie. Maybe some moleskin velvet?” 23, Clouseau Road – this had to be the shop. He looked at the unassuming exterior of the shop. The windows’ opaque glass did not provide any clue that this was a shop at all. Only the large shop sign reading “Q” indicated that he had reached his destination.

He stepped into a small room that was almost completely stuffed with shelves containing boxes of all sizes.  A few garments were displayed on racks, an odd assortment of objects sat on the small floor space. The gleaming steal and glaring marble luxury of the shops he was used to frequenting to fulfill his brand-name clothing needs, were ominously missing. In fact the shop looked decidedly unglamourous if not down-right shifty. He hesitated, his hand still on the door knob. An elderly man, as unassuming as his shop, looked up from behind the counter. “Good afternoon, Mr Armitage, Sir, how can I help you?”

Richard closed the door with a thud and directed his curious gaze at the man. “Eh, how…?” The shop keeper smiled. “It is my business to be informed about potential customers, Sir. Your recent success on stage and off has made you a prime  target for what we are offering in our shop. Have you any particular needs I may cater for?” “No, thanks”, Richard hurriedly answered, “Eh, just looking.” “Very well.”

Richard looked around. A board with numerous fake moustaches attracted his interest. He carefully brushed over a particularly impressive handle-bar moustache with his hand. On the shelf behind the board he spotted dark sunglasses in all shapes and colours. There were boxes with pictures of mobile phones, pens and watches printed on. Was that a periscope peeping around the corner of a shelf? Why on earth had B___ sent him here? “Excuse me, is this a joke shop?”, he eventually plucked up the courage to ask the shop keeper.

The man’s expectant mien dropped. “Oh no, Sir, this is deadly serious.” “Well”, Richard fumbled for words “I was sent here by my colleague B___ C___ who said you catered for people who are in the public eye…” “Well, Sir, we do.  Mr C___ is a valued customer of ours and bought our Napkin Invisibility Solution  earlier this year. You may have seen him with it…” Richard shook his head. “Ah, pity. Ingeniously used.” He paused and then explained with proud emphasis, “We provide the latest in celebrity gear, Mr Armitage”.

Richard raised his eyebrows inquiringly at the shop manager. “Sun glasses with built-in rear-view mirror to check you are not being followed by fans, elegant permanent ink pens for never-ending autograph sessions – they even work upside down”, he pointed at a shelf, “wet suits with inflatable ducks for discreet exit in the water, mouth-held air supply for those eventualities where you may hide in a stuffy cupboard to avoid paparazzi, down to simple but British quality-made baseball caps with extra long points for hiding under… we have it all.” Richard’s eyes had grown bigger and bigger. He felt like a child in a toy shop. “I need it all!!!”

“Well, I have just the right equipment for a fashionable man like you.” The shopkeeper pulled a dark woollen coat from one of the racks. “If you would slip into that, Sir… Suits you very well, if I may say so, Sir.” He yanked on the sleeves of the coat to make it fit. “Yeah, but what does it do?” “Allow me,” the shopkeeper turned up the collar of the coat. “Stealth mode collar. You can hide behind it.” “And that is all?”, Richard huffed. “Well, the collar has a built-in communication device that will connect you with your driver, agent or loved one of choice for discreet contact. Or extraction from sketchy situations. No wires, totally invisible. Infinite battery life. Operated by body heat.  100% Shetland wool. Can be dry-cleaned.” The shop keeper patted the collar back down.

“Well, bugger me senseless. Lucas North, I am back!”, Richard exclaimed. “I’ll take it!” “Very good”, the man replied. “Shall I wrap that for you, Sir?” “No thanks, I’ll wear it straight away.” He paid, and turned around on his heels. Hunching into the coat he turned the collar up again and headed for the door. His coat tails flying behind him he whispered into his coat, “Testing, testing. Harry, I need your help. I’m a celebrity, get me out of here…”

95 thoughts on “*ooof*: da-da da-Dunn, da-Dunn, da-Dunn-da-Dunn-da-Dunn

  1. 😀 you’ve done it again, Guylty! Your ficlets are priceless. Love the photo too, of course, and I promise I don’t just skip down to the ficlet!

    *Chortle* Bugger me senseless, indeed – what ARE your American readers going to make of that? 😉

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    • 😀 We’ll open the question to the floor – American readers, what do you make of the Brit Eng expressions I put into Richard’s mouth???
      Personally I think the man seems not averse to a hearty curse… Part of life. But then again, I am surrounded by an anglophone nation who loves to throw the F-word into every second sentence.

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      • I read your ficlet three times, just to make sure I wasn’t missing any offensive profanities or F bombs. Being an American easily offended by harsh language, the only phrase I could find that might be suspect was “bugger me….” In order to know if I should be outraged or not, could you provide the English translation for those of us across the pond? I would risk the shock to my sensibilities in order to advance my knowledge of Brit Eng expressions. The last one I learned was “wanker”, a very colorful and descriptive word. I would use it daily if more of my fellow Californians were more familiar with it. I look forward to enriching my vocabulary with your help, dear Guylty. You are providing a unique educational experience for those of us who wish to expand our English language skills.

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        • Hehe, yes Kathy, you zoomed in on the offensive phrase immediately… Susie has already provided an alternative (although I must say that the *real* meaning of the phrase is actually even worse *ahem*).
          I was laughing about your previously picked up anglicism – “wanker”. Yep, nasty, but somehow more rounded than “jerk”. There is, I admit, quite a silly satisfaction in using an expletive every once in a while. My own native language is not really that rich in them, so it continually amazes me when I hear these phrases on British TV. Talk shows like Graham Norton are particularly liberal in their use of such phrases (and the context they are used in…) The BBC has really come a long way since the Sex Pistols were beeped off TV for extensive use of the F-bomb 😀

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      • Love the ficlet and the Brit expressions! “Well, bugger me senseless” seems to translate quite appropriately to “Well, f*ck me” in American English? 🙂

        And thanks for another wonderful and fun analysis of this photo. I’m no expert, but it does seem like Dunn seems to get more playful movement out of RA? Then again, we haven’t seen all of the outtakes from the Hassler or Ascroft shoots. Either way, I love all three of these photographers! (and your analysis of them)

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  2. And I agree that some,but not all, of her photos of Richard Armitage generate the feeling that they are especially close and comfortable with each other. I don’t mind the gentle marketing. There’s an interactive quality to it that I’ve come to like.

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  3. Jaaa, ich habe auch sofort an den Pink Panther gedacht, ob das so wohl gewollt ist? Offensichtlich hatten die beiden beim klicken viel Spaß!
    Die Helmut Newton Ausstellung (es ist eine Dauerausstellung) habe ich in Berlin gesehen, schade dass er nicht mehr am Leben ist, er hätte RA fotografieren sollen – grins!

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    • Ob das gewollt ist – wer weiß, vielleicht wussten die beiden selber gar nicht, dass sie da einen Klassiker nachstellen. Liegt ja auch im Auge des Betrachters. Aber ich fand’s auch deutlich.
      Jou, Helmut Newton habe ich auch schon in Berlin angeguckt, sogar zweimal. Der war aber ja eher für sexy Frauen zuständig als für sexy Männer 😉

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  4. Great ooof, if I may say so :-).
    And lovely ficlet – as always. You know, I am one of the nitpickers that are not so fond of Ms Dunns marketing. And also not so fond on her pictures. But that may be because I have been spoiled rotten during the last two years. I am completely with you on behalf of the black background. Victoria Wills anyone? ähem….. And maybe I am just jealous of Sarah Dunns obviously good and relaxed relationship with the Man. But I still have my hopes high that one day I will see pics of Mr. A. taken by Andy Gotts. Took me quite a while to grow on his pictures – but now I think they are fabulous. Or at least most of them.

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    • Oh, Andy Gotts!! I really have to agree with you there. He gets his sitters to really give away something of their personality. And often a facet that you did not expect them to have. I second your wish!
      But when it comes to celebrity portraiture, German photographer Martin Schöller seems to be the man of the moment. Close-ups of the face only. Very intense. Colour. Not necessarily beautiful, but evocative.

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      • Martin Schöller? Never heard of? Thanks for pointing out! (and thank you google:) My dear – that is a man of talent. Udo Kier, Christopher Walken – stunning. Beautiful is not the word that comes to my mind – but grabs me right in the feels.
        Your blog is so educational 😉 , I always take something new with me. Thanks a lot!!

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        • Educational is exactly the intention – I love it when I can pass on something that is new to you.
          Schöller – a great example for a photographer who creates fascinating imagery that does not rely on superficial beauty. In a way his images, due to his distinct style, make the sitters look very similar. A way of showing us that we are all the same, celeb or not? There is a weird flatness in the images, due to his dead-pan approach. And I am a total sucker for his shallow depth of field…

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          • ohh amazing! i just googled! i see what you mean, some look almost 2 dimensional, but then there are the eyes! never seen D Radcliffe look so stunning… Who’d have thought he photographs so well close up, must be the symmetry in the face and brilliant skin 😉 great how expressive some of the eyes become. And love every wrinkle on this face http://m5.paperblog.com/i/5/55628/martin-schoeller-L-pDawxi.jpeg
            I could really look at them for hours and not get bored, thanks for the tip!

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            • He’s quite interesting. I am fascinated that his rather uniform style is not getting boring. It’s down to the sitters, I suppose. The eyes are very much enhanced by the lighting Schöller uses.

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              • yes, when you google you get a whole screen full of them and it does look same same a bit, it’s interesting when you zoom in one some, i guess because they are celebrities people are still interested. I was fascinated how some, like Clint Eastwood look exactly how you expect them, i like the idea of CE being that, what you see is what you get 🙂 Disgusting how some people look good even in such close up, like B Pitt 😀 Doesn’t necessarily grab me as an actor, but it’s amazing how well he photographs, i wish i understood why or what about that face makes it look good. I guess MS found a striking niche style and combined with subjects it makes it interesting.

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  5. GUYLTY!!! Menschenskind, wie *kannst* du nur?! Alle Welt wundert sich, wie er es schafft, immer wieder zu verschwinden – und du plauderst sein Geheimnis aus! Schäm dich!!! 😀

    Interessant: Die Vierecke wären mir vermutlich nie aufgefallen.

    Die Ansicht zur seltsamen Aufteilung von Bildern – hier: leerer Raum über dem ODB, dafür abgeschnittene Beine – teile ich. Vielleicht sind solche Aufteilungen einer der Gründe, warum mich Dunn-Bilder nicht so ansprechen? Das muss ich gelegentlich mal checken.

    Ein anderer Grund ist mit Sicherheit die Leere des Hintergrunds, also: das Weiß. Es ist *mal* gut, wenn man keine Ablenkung im Bild hat, aber auf Dauer nervt’s. Mich jedenfalls.

    Danke übrigens, dass du schreibst, dass du Dunns Fotos nicht “more personal” findest als andere. So fühle ich mich nicht mehr ganz so allein, wenn ich wieder einmal ratlos aus der Wäsche gucke, während andere Fans in Begeisterungsstürme ausbrechen. 😉

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    • Hahaha, world exclusive, so to speak. A scoop :-D.
      Das mit den Vierecken ist wieder mal so ein nettes kleines Spielchen. Dass das so geplant war, wage ich zu bezweifeln. Aber es ist eine mögliche Erklärung, warum die Pose in ihrer Komposition so effektiv ist. Alle Komponenten stehen in einem größeren Zusammenhang und in einem Verhältnis zueinander. Zufall – vielleicht. Aber passt.
      Der Bildzuschnitt ist mir bei Dunn schon öfter negativ aufgefallen. Ich habe so den Verdacht, dass die Post-Produktion nicht ihre Stärke und auch nicht ihr Interesse ist. Jedenfalls habe ich da öfter etwas dran auszusetzen – schiefer Horizont, seltsame Anordnung des Modells innerhalb des Rahmens, zu viel negativer Raum etc.
      Mit dem nervenden Weiß rennst du bei mir offene Türen ein. Ich sage nur “gähn”.
      Und dass es in den sozialen Medien regelmäßig Begeisterungsstürme gibt, wenn Dunn ein neues Bild herausrückt, liegt auch am Überraschungseffekt – besonders wenn man schon längere Zeit auf neues Bildfutter warten musste. V.a. Twitter ist da wenig repräsentativ, jedenfalls seit RA sich da selber rumtreibt. Seitdem gibt es ja nur noch Lobeshymnen – denn: Feind hört mit…

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      • *dumdideldum* Was macht Frau, wenn sie abends allein ins Bet krabbelt? – Genau: Nachdenken. Oder Unsinn dichten. Oder beides.

        Lass uns mit dem Nachdenken anfangen: Ich glaube, ich habe gestern Abend die Gründe für meine mangelnde Liebe zu (den meisten) Dunn-Fotos endlich zu einem formulierbaren Gesamtbild zusammengesetzt.

        Dunns berufliche Hauptaufgabe – Portraitaufnahmen – sind (zumindest in meiner Laien-Auffassung) handwerklich einwandfrei. Sie bilden ab, was *da* ist. Herausragende Eigenschaften des fotografierten Objekts (etwa RAs Augen) werden betont, aber das war’s auch schon. Handwerklich sauber, poliert, neutral.
        Und … distanziert. Was ich bei ihren Fotos empfinde, ist … nichts.
        Das ist bei den Portraits in Ordnung. Sie sollen abbilden, keine großen Gefühle wecken.
        Sie sind – sozusagen – ehrlich.

        Blöd nur, wenn Dunn von der Distanz weg (no pun intended) und den Betrachter irgendwie ansprechen will. Vielleicht bin ich ja einfach der falsche Betrachter für Dunns Versuche in Sachen Humor oder Gefühl? Die Wirkung auf mich ist jedenfalls das Gegenteil des gewünschten Effekts: Ich finde die Bilder gleich so übertrieben (Elvis-Pose und andere absurde Verrenkungen?), dass ich sie *bestenfalls* (!) lächerlich finde. Üblicherweise ist es schlimmer: Ich fühle mich für dumm verkauft, und die Bilder wirken auf mich verlogen.

        Nebenbemerkung 1: Ähnliches gilt für Dunns Kunst-Fotos, zu denen du ja mal einen Link gesetzt hattest – technisch interessant und vermutlich sehr gut. Nur ansprechen, das tun sie mich so überhaupt nicht.

        Nebenbemerkung 2: Ich schätze, “fangirlische” Begeisterungsstürme haben die viel einfachere Erklärung, dass sich nur die begeisterten Fans überhaupt äußern … 😀

        Was den dichterischen Unsinn angeht: Was wäre, wenn ein Zwergen-Flug von London nach Paris unvorhergesehen in Frankfurt landen würde …?

        Suspiciously they look around:
        “What is this place? It’s unknown ground!
        No “accents” to see in any spots!”
        All they see are umlaut dots.

        The dwarfs all followed their leader
        (not King Thorin but ol’ Peter)
        who led the whole brave band
        to a foreign unknown land.

        The poor guys felt oh-so-alone:
        Lost, forgotten, with no way home
        but then – finally! – their luck changed
        when they met a badger (slightly deRAnged).

        Autsch. 😛

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        • Danke für deine Ausführungen zur Wirkung von Dunns Fotos. Kann ich eigentlich auch so bestätigen. Technisch gut gemacht. Auch ich bin meistens ein wenig ratlos, was dann aber die intendierte Message angeht. Aber auch hier sage ich, dass ich vermute, unsere Erwartungen sind zu hoch. Das liegt einerseits an unserer eigenen Vertrautheit mit dem Subjekt, andererseits daran, dass Dunn und Armitage in letzter Zeit so deutlich ihre private Verbundenheit betont haben. Nun vermuten wir, dass sich so etwas in den Bildern doch zeigen müsste…
          Was die Posen angeht – finde ich eigentlich nicht extrem. Guck dir nur mal das unsägliche Brooks-Foto an, wo er die Arme über dem halbnackten Oberkörper verrenkt. Das finde ich wesentlich gestellter und unglaubwürdiger als ein durch’s Bild schreitender Armitage bei Dunn. Ob Dunns Bilder verlogen sind, hängt von der eigenen Erwartung ab. Jedes Foto ist nur eine Interpretation und hat niemals Anspruch auf Allgemeingültigkeit oder ausschließliche Wahrheit. Dunn interpretiert RA in einem bestimmten Moment, aus ihrer Sichtweise und mit einem bestimmten Zielpublikum im Hinterkopf. Vielleicht sind wir, die Kritiker, eben nicht die angesprochene Target Group?
          Ganz allgemein glaube ich, dass ich mittlerweile “alles” gesehen habe und mich kein Bild von Armitage mehr so vom Hocker reißen kann, wie sie es am Anfang getan haben. Naja, vielleicht doch noch ein Schöller. Oder eine Inszenierung, wie ich sie gestern von Luke Evans gesehen habe. Das gefiel mir ausgesprochen gut, weil es Kontext gab. Die Portraits vor neutralem Background finde ich mittlerweile gähnend langweilig.
          Deine Dichtkünste dagegen sind alles andere als langweilig. Wunderbar – die Zwerge in Deutschland. Das wär ein Spaß. Dann muss ich wohl mal wieder einen Lyrik-Post machen… 🙂

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          • Ich glaube nicht, dass es an der Vertrautheit mit dem Subjekt liegt (z.B. spricht mich das eine Da Man-Bild sehr an, auch wenn ich dir nicht sagen kann, wieso). Und auch nicht an der bekannten Verbundenheit zwischen RA und Dunn. – Mich haben die Bilder einfach nie angesprochen, statt dessen hatte ich die oben beschriebenen Reaktionen. Ich finde in Dunn-Bildern auch Details, die ich mag. Der allgemeine Eindruck ist aber wie beschrieben, auch mit der Assoziation, die ich als “wirkt verlogen auf mich” formuliert habe. Ich weiß nicht, wie ich es anders formulieren könnte; es ist ein Gefühl, für das ich keine passende(re) Beschreibung finde. Wohlgemerkt: Auf *mich* ist die Wirkung so – andere sehen das natürlich anders.

            Natürlich ist auch nicht jede Pose extrem. Oder andersrum: Dunn ist nicht der einzige Fotograf, der RA in extremen Posen abgelichtet hat. Oder in schlecht passender Kleidung. Oder … Ändert alles nichts dran, dass sie es nicht bzw. selten schafft, mich anzusprechen.

            Tja, Dunn und ich werden in diesem Leben wohl keine engen Freunde mehr. 😉

            Ich fürchte, die Zwerge in Deutschland wurden bereits von Merry verf…, äh, entführt. Wieder Pech gehabt. 😦

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            • Ich glaube, wir drehen uns hier im Kreis. Ob ein Foto einen emotional anspricht oder nicht, ist immer ein subjektiver Eindruck. *achselzuck* Mir geht es eigentlich auch gar nicht darum, hier für Dunn die Werbetrommel zu rühren. Sie macht ihre Sache professionell und gut. Nicht schlechter und nicht besser als andere Fotografen. Punktum.

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        • tolles Gedicht :-)))) ist sicher auch der Fall dass sie bei all den Premieren zusammenhalten, sonst fuhlt man sich im Rummel sicher doch etwas seltsam und vielleicht isoliert..

          Fuhle genau wie du wegen den Fotos! obwohl gelpogen wurde ich jetzt nicht gerade sagen 😉 Bloss halt sachlich und weiter nichts. Allerdings in der Ausstellung gab es schon ein paar die mir sehr gefallen haben, besonders eins von J Phoenix das ich toll fand, kam so viel Ruhe ruber von ihm in dem Bild, ein paar davon waren ganz anders als die normalen shoots, da kam viel mehr ruber von der Person. Das hat mich damals positiv uberrascht. Aber fur mich kommt es in ihren komerzeillen Sachen auch fast nie ruber. Sie wirken irgendwie unpersonlich.

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          • Bin mir nicht sicher, ob man wirklich kritisieren kann, dass kommerzielle Bilder unpersönlich rüberkommen. Sie sind doch nichts anderes als ein schönes Bildchen von schönen Menschen – und sollen Zeitungen, Filme und Klamotten verkaufen. Da ist – auch wenn uns das als Fans enttäuscht – die Persönlichkeit des Abgebildeten doch zweitrangig, solange die Optik stimmt. Ich bleibe dabei – wir haben zu viele Erwartungen, weil wir ein detailliertes eigenes Bild von RA haben. Das wird in den Fotos nicht immer bestätigt, und dann hagelt es Kritik.

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  6. Danke für mein heimlich gewünschtes Kragenbild 🙂 Das Mancini-Motiv hast du prima abgebildet.
    Ich fahre ja am meisten auf deine eingezogenen Parallelen und Winkel ab. Hatte ich glaube ich schonmal gelegentlich erwähnt :-). Sehr schön mit den Vierecken und so leicht vorweihnachtlich.
    So, dann also die “Huch-wo-isser-denn-der-Bart”-Pose. Bin sehr gespannt, wie er uns am Montag erscheint und was er trägt (im Gesicht, auf dem Kopf und überhaupt). Und wie gut, dass er so überlebenswichtige Tipps von dem Routenier BC erhält. Sehr fürsorglich 😉 Testing, testing….. Da läuft das Kopfkino auf Hochtouren 😀

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    • Puh, da hab ich ja noch mal Glück gehabt, dass du dieses Dunn-Bild doch mochtest ;-). Ich hab lange gebrütet, welches ich nun nehmen soll, aber dieses war eben das, was für mich am meisten Redefutter gegeben hat. Mir persönlich gefällt ja das Close-up-Kragenbild am besten, weil er da in die Kamera schaut, und weil man näher dran ist. Mal sehen, ob ich dazu noch mehr zu sagen habe. Denn ein *ooof*, in dem ich nur das Bild beschreiben kann, ist ja dann nicht gerade abendfüllend..
      Bin auch schon gespannt, ob der Bart am Montag durch den schicken Stoppel ersetzt ist. Das scheint ja sein bevorzugter Look zu sein. Ich finde ja, wir sollten Hari darauf ansetzen, am Promi-Hintereingang in Heathrow auf der Lauer zu liegen und zu berichten…

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      • LOL lach mich kaputt 😉 wohl mi dem badge von der Arbeit :-p bin mir sicher verstubbelt vom Flug gefallt er mir sogar mehr :-p aber der ist sicher schon da, war ja zwischen Fr und Uk bei Interviews, in seiner Wohnung also da war nichts abzufangen 😉

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          • bin nicht sicher, aber dieses Parisofotodings erschien weil er da bei Interviews war und soweit ich verstehen konnte laut einem Zeitungsmensch am Tag zuvor in UK, ob er noch immer da ist oder nicht doch wieder nach den US reisen musste, keine Ahnung, fur ein paar Tage schienen seinen tweets wieder auf Europazeit zu sein, wurde Sinn machen wenn er hier geblieben war, denke ich mal, ausser es gibt halt andere Promosachen die er machen muss. Keine Ahnung, ich wunschte mir er wurde sich freuen hier zu sein. Aber das hat nichts mit der Promo zu tun sondern mit meinem heissesten Wunsch ihn wieder hier auf der Buhne spielen zu sehen und ich bilde mir ein, wenn er es mag hier zu wohnen dann macht er es vielleicht wieder mal. Alles Wunschdenken 😉 In Wirklichkeit lebt er wahrscheinlich lieber in Ny usw, schulterzuck.

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      • Wann kommt er denn an? Werde auf jeden Fall Sonntag früh mal die Augen aufhalten. Kann ihn ja zum Frühstück mitbringen. Tea and toast und scRAmbled eggs. 😀 JAJA, ich weiss, wie da der doppelte Boden aufgeht….. 🙂

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  7. Another wonderful ooof Gulty. Sarah Dunn’s photos of Richard have been a real mixed bag for me. I adore her black and white laughing pics, but others leave me a bit “meh” (nothing to do with the sitter of course, more the colouring/pose etc)

    I burst out laughing at your “bugger me”. I don’t like the f… word at all – I get tired of hearing it thrown around so much – “bugger” is much gentler on the ears I reckon, but that could just be my Brit roots! 🙂

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    • I think the laughing pics of RA are not only adorable but also irresistible. Who *could* resist a laughing, beautiful man??? Very clever of her to have copped on to that. I must *ooof* the white background-standing up laugh job.
      Hehe, well, bugger me – I had no idea my little detour into the slurry pit would prove so interesting 😉

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  8. As always, I love your detailed analysis of the technical and compositional choices Dunn makes. You already know how I feel about Dunn’s marketing choices, so I won’t repeat myself except to say that I’m afraid how I feel about the producer of an image does influence my reaction to the image when I see it — especially in her case because we always have advance notice that something’s coming. And she’s not the only instance in this fandom of a problematic delivery mechanism that potentially affects enjoyment of the information delivered. We’ve had at least two interviews this year where the behavior/stance of the interviewer substantially influenced at least some fans’ enjoyment of the result.

    Fortunately, or unfortunately, with 2-3 exceptions I’m increasingly unexcited about her photos. Of the recent ones, I liked her candid of him on the Sleepwalker set, but mostly because of the pose, which I assume she didn’t arrange for. The last three beard camouflage photos left me largely unmoved, which for me is saying a lot. I never thought I’d get to the point where the flood of available Armitage photos meant I found some of them boring, but she’s gotten me there.

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    • Thanks for your take on the influence of the “delivery mechanism”. The parallel you pointed out with the interviews was really interesting – because in relation to those I totally get what you mean. (But I have to say that the main reason I am uninterested in those interviews has more to do with the interview technique, the personality of the interviewer and the general admiration that the interviewer enjoys by (large parts of) the fandom and that I just cannot understand or share.) I suppose I can ignore the problematic delivery mechanism because I am over-invested in photography? There is also the point that the finished photographic product bears little trace of the creator in it – as opposed to the interviewer – and therefore I can concentrate on the image without being annoyed by the personality of the photographer. In fact, we know very little about the personality of the photographer, to her credit!
      Having said that – I am not annoyed by Dunn at all. I have a soft spot for women photographers – which is why I am willing to overlook my niggles 😉 However, Dunn is not my favourite RA photographer. That honour is currently split between Ascroft and Justin Canning – two different approaches at very different stages of their sitter’s career, and yet I love those shoots. Maybe that is because I love seeing more than just one isolated shot…

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      • I think the medium does matter in terms of tolerance for certain things — I have been musing lately on how many media I am involved in because of Armitage that I would not pay that much attention to normally (vs the media that I care most about in general as opposed to just because of Armitage). Photography is not something about which I “care” all that much, although I would like to understand more about it. I do care a lot about words and their usage — witness my reaction to Tanya Gold’s article this summer.

        But I would disagree that words and photos are different in this regard, with your assertion that the photographer doesn’t leave much behind of her personality in a photograph. (I’ll go one further and I think that if you thought about this more you would at least put it differently, because one reason we look at photographs is to see a different view of the world than we are expecting, in part by looking through someone else’s eyes/filters of that world — and what is that filter but personality? If personality were not part of photos, why would we enjoy looking at hundreds of photos of exactly the same thing? [Perceived] personality, attitude, identity are important in our consumption of aesthetic products.) I do think we learn a lot about Dunn from the photographs she makes public — her choice of subject, the way she portrays it, her aesthetic choices, her thematic preoccupations, her willingness to go along with a photographic fad or question it. You would know more about that in her case than I would because you’ve seen her independent show. But if that isn’t an index of her personality/identity what is? I’ve never talked to her, but she creates a very definite impression of herself a person to me based on her pictures. Whether or not my impression is accurate doesn’t matter because I will never meet her / speak to her / be friends with her. What she leaves of her identity in my view is all I have to go on.

        It may be the case that we see the creator’s personality in a different way through an image than through words, but it matters to me (and I assume, to you) if Leibovitz photographs something or Avedon does it, or insert another photographer’s name. Their worldviews are different. What is that but personality?

        Thus I could say something very similar of Dunn to what you write of you-know-who:

        [One] main reason I am [increasingly] uninterested in those [photographs] has […] to do with the [compositional technique and simplistic, apparently unconsciously unironic content choices she makes], the [apparently related aspects of] personality [and identity the photographer reveals in her photos] and the general admiration that the interviewer enjoys by (large parts of) the fandom and that I just cannot understand or share.)

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        • Touché. You are absolutely right. The photographer’s personality is evident in the photographs she takes. That’s what gives each photographer his or her individual style.
          And yet I am still not convinced that the personality of a photographer is as strong an interference as the presence in voice and face of an interviewer’s personality. Maybe that is because I am a visual person and the lack of visual evidence of the photographer’s existence misleads me in thinking that?
          Do you really think that Dunn is generally admired within the fandom? My impression is that she is seen very critically – for objective reasons (such as her marketing approach), but also for irrational reasons (jealousy over her buddy-friendship with our beloved star?).

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          • re: photos vs text — I think they are different in terms of how they seek to influence but I’m not sure one is stronger than the other.

            re: Dunn’s status in the fandom — I dunno — there are only two people I’ve talked to about it at length who are really critical of her and/or for the same reasons that I am. If the fan editors are an index of anything, they’re either unaware of her ex post statements or don’t care, because they’ve gone on doing what fans do with glee. So my impression is most fans enjoy her photos and would like to see more of them. (Or: most fans would like to see more photos of him period, so if she’s the mechanism for that, then let’s have more of her. I think you’re already in a particular, fairly narrow category of superfan if you’re say, comparing how you feel about Dunn vs how you feel about Leslie Hassler.) I haven’t talked to anyone who sees her critically out of jealousy over her friendship with Armitage. Then again, maybe I have friends who feel that way who don’t admit it or raise it with me because they know I’d be generally unsympathetic to that particular argument. The issue with that — the slapdown of someone because of their general or temporary or even notional/perceived proximity to Armitage — is always cloaked in issues that are presented as “rational,” anyhow, so it might be hard to diagnose actual jealousy insofar as it would be hard to find anyone who admitted to it.

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  9. Hi Guylty, I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis of the Sara Dunn RA in Pink Panther mode photo. Pink Panther is the perfect allusion and I got a lot out of the f stops and aperture stuff as I am slowly attempting to use my camera off the automatic settings. I still really like the stark contrast of the white background with the all in black RA, it still works for me. The black background is also beautiful but maybe too soon for Ms. Dunn to use since it was put to such stunning effect with The Crucible posters?? I am thinking she wouldn’t be wanting any comparisons to that. This is my favourite photo lately. I love the surreptitious vibe RA is giving….he has been very generous with playing with his fans since joining twitter on his birthday. Thanks again for a humourous and also very informative oof and that ficlet to go along with it was pretty imaginative!

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    • Glad you enjoyed my analysis and got something out of it in terms of your own photography. I always find it quite difficult to find the right balance when it comes to technical stuff – I assume most readers do not know much about manual shooting, so I tend to be rather basic. And yet I suspect some of my technical explanations are a bit too specialised…
      BTW – there is nothing wrong with using or liking the white, blown-out background. I find it unoriginal, but that is just me. My preferred black background would be even darker than the Crucible posters, so it would look quite different, but I see what you mean about Dunn not wanting to replicate that.

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  10. Sigh, i loved reading this, not for the photo itself but for the great explanations of what it would take to get it! You’ve given me respect for her work and i appreciate that. I may not particularly enjoy the outcome but i am grateful for understanding how the work happens. And i am also glad i sort of understand why i don’t like the white background, it bothered me in all of them, i wished for the steel-blue/grey one from the Thorin photo in them somehow. I’m no really in love with any of them, some i don’t like at all and with other i get an overriding feeling of disappointment that i can’t even explain well. It’s nothing to do with the marketing side, it’s a job, they make a living and although i like photos waiting time is not an issue, my love for the final product is.
    I don’t fully dislike them, i like the hand in the hand on face one and i like some of the styling there. In terms of RA chemistry i like the last one because of the fab look in his eyes, which i don’t get from any. If i think really hard i think this is probably my main gripe, in other photos i get more from him. Which only indicates my personal preference for some intensity from the subject. I have no clue to be honest in terms of analysis, but i don’t see any special connection between sitter and photographer in hers in comparison to other photos. I fact that is exactly what bothers me most, the lack of intensity or expression of a more identifiable sort in the majority of them. I guess my brain/heart goes for the expression in the person photographed much more than for the structure itself, the pose, etc.

    Having said that i am a sucker for elegant men’s clothes (family tailoring background to blame) and in that respect this is a gorgeous photo of a beautiful coat! On a very good model i may add 😉 But for me the subject of this is that coat, it’s beautiful cut, the material, the way it moves suggesting utter elegance for the wearer. I want to touch it and it makes me think of a great perfume to go with it or just the smell of great cloth! If this was in a fashion mag that coat would fly of the racks! But as said in terms of photo of RA himself… where is he? all i get is the coat.
    In the Hassler or the recent 2 from the Da-man all i get is RA or there is soooo much RA in them that it takes me work to see past that and look at clothes and setting and such 🙂 And that is i guess what i as a fan look for in photos of RA; shallow i know, but can’t help what my heart wants 😉
    Funny enough i know she can get it too, as against what i expected i liked a couple of her exhibition photos, but..

    Loved the ficlet although my imagination went a bit in parallel, when i thought clothes shopping and old shop and even the tailor i was in Savile Row 🙂 You’ll laugh but believe it or not i had a lovely conversation there with a little old man exactly as you describe him! 😀 But your version is much funnier! I laughed till my belly hurt at the British make baseball caps! and wet suits with inflatable ducks???? I had an image of RA stuck in a giant yellow duck type floater thing! LOL Brilliant 🙂 and yes i bet he cusses more than we even imagine! Good for him, it’s a healthy release mechanism ‘ggg’

    Thanks for another brilliant informative and entertaining read!

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    • You put into words what I am trying to achieve with my photo analyses. Even if the image is not the readers (or even my) favourite, I would like to explain what it involves to make such an image. It is a very deliberate process that needs research and pre-planning. It is often inspired by imagery from other photographers, but the outcome is always unique. All considered, it takes a long time to make these images – there’s more to a photo than the split second click. And it deserves respect even if the final product is not to our liking. I still believe it should be seen as separate from the photographer’s marketing approach. We can judge the photographer for that, but not the photography…
      As for lack of intensity in Dunn’s photos of RA. I am not sure whether we are not expecting too much of her. The fact that we *know* about their special relationship may work against her in that respect. As you said – there is no indication in her photos that she is showing his personality in a more truthful way than any other photographers do. Quite honestly, I think we are overfamiliar with our favourite subject, and therefore our expectations are unreachably high.
      As for composition and pose vs. subject himself – I think the former are subordinate to the latter. They are used to enhance and support, but in the case of celebrity photography they are only secondary. They may be more important when it comes to portraits of unknown people (whom we encounter without preconceived ideas), but in photos of celebrities they are merely accessories.
      Interesting that you perceived this image as a commercial for a coat. I can see where you are coming from, and it kind of conforms to what I was saying about cropping the image closer and losing the bottom half of it. I think it would have been much more evocative that way – but I guess she kept it full length because she wanted a variety of shots and not a near identical image like the other collar one.
      I disagree about the “amount” of RA in the Daman shots. Especially the standing portrait really looked very “fashion” to me. In that respect I find the Daman images much more posed and unironic than Dunn’s. But hey, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I really don’t like formal dress, so that probably put me off.
      The gadgets from the celebrity shop – I hope it came across that I was referencing James Bond 😉

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      • yes i did think between Bond and Clouseau 😉 yes you are right about the Daman, posy and not new poses, but i still like them, i guess because i can see more of the expression in his face. I do like the last of the Dunns tho, the one with his face behind the collar, the look in those eyes i great 🙂 makes me laugh just to look at it and i bet he is at least smiling behind the collar.
        You are absolutely right about expectations and maybe i should think about those before i look at a picture or step back and turn them down a bit. As i do probably subconsciously look at the photos and expect to get the moving, living, breathing thing and am always let down ‘ggg’. No photo will ever be able to capture what i saw on stage 🙂 I just need to remind myself of that when i look at them. Sometimes there is an element of ‘i know he looks better than that’ , but nobody looks the same really or comes across the same. The Spanish have a great expression ‘tener el guapo subido’ (meaning sort of having beauty/good looks turned on that day/moment), sometimes people just look better and sometimes they just look as themselves. So goes with photos i guess, they capture the person in that moment.
        I like the 2nd Daman one, where he sits and although it’s a pose, that look is acting, but also his own at times i feel, but i have a weakness for the stern, concentrated look. I did feel he gets like that for example in the Conversation at the Old Vic where the subject is serious or he cares about it a lot. Almost feels as if he;s about to issue a strong opinion on something in that photo. But maybe you wanted to ‘oof’ that and i am anticipating stuff. Let’s just say i like the flashes of stern/even chilly within the mostly amiable, friendly, warm, funny overall. Very likely because i know other people with similar traits who can chill it down in a second and stare you down 😉 (see example below, snapped prob as much as RA and loads of better looking photos around, but these are by far among my favourites, particularly the first .. wish i knew who the photographer was.. )

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  11. I love the Pink Panther music and your header made me laugh, I think he looks just like the cartoon clouseau that graces the credits of the film.
    I found your analysis interesting and your ficlet very witty, thanks once again for a terrific ‘ooof’ xx.

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  12. I was thinking that he looked like a spy in the photo, so I liked the part about Lucas North. Thank you for telling us about the tech stuff of taking photos. As for the photo, it is ok but not a favorite for me.

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  13. I always learn something when you write about photography. I especially liked the geometry you identified in this photo. So obvious… once it has been pointed out. I agree that cutting off his shins was a bad choice. I would like to see the whole human figure, or perhaps half, but not one with missing feet.
    Mancini and his Pink Panther are big faves with me. Thanks for making me smile 🙂

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  14. Uuhh, the Pink Panther, I rememember being allowed to watch the TV-series in my childhood, now you´ve spoilt me, will never watch it again without giggles thinking of Mr. A swinging his coat (what will little Emma Charlotte think abot her mad grandma watching it with me?)
    As you know I don´t have any photography skills and will never have though I took thousands of pics in my life so far, and I like all your professional analysies and interpretations, always something to learn and think about.
    Yes, I think maybe there is a symbiosys between Mr. A and Ms. Dunn… I don´t want to interprete their ambitions… I just love the result… gorgeous pics, that´s all that counts for me… still being a little fangirl 🙂
    Most of all, I think you´re a great writer too, your ficlets are always hilarious, I love them…
    Can´t get the “Pink Panther” out of my head, you naughty girl keep me off from my sleep 🙂

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  15. Pingback: RA Pocket Shrine 127/? – Spy-candy | Guylty Pleasure

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