Some faces carry an age or a bygone era with them. This photograph of Benjamin does that for me. This is a random fashion portrait taken in the midst of a much larger fashion shoot in Westbourne Grove, London. The low winter sun was setting and I saw Ben staring in it’s direction. The sun had just caught his expression as if to suggest an older, more bruised nobility. He looked very clean-shaven and stoic – so we played with that idea.
There’s being impassive and there’s being “dead in the eyes”. The two are not the same. I quite often give my models a thought to be thinking about so that when we shoot that same thought can be seen in the photograph. A simple prompt or suggestion can avoid that bored, vacant, “dead-in-the-eyes” look which can be a huge turn-off. Vacant stares can work in some photographs, but for me they are in the minority. I want the audience to be engaged by the photograph they are looking at. If the subject of the photograph looks engaged then it stands to reason that person looking at it will be too.
Styling the photograph
The smallest details can have the biggest (albeit unseen) impact on a photograph. Benjamin’s face is doing a lot of the work in this photograph. It sells the mood but the hint (and in particular) the sharpness of his collar and scarf suggest money. It suggests wealth. All of these small details impact back on his portrait and an audience’s reading of it. In the absence of detail or more obvious cultural / social clues an audience will always go looking to the styling for more information. This is just one of a host of reasons why having a stylist on-set is so important. It frees you up to concentrate on the visuals.
Photographer: Mark Esper
Model: Benjamin Shaw
Location: Westbourne Grove, London