Beard @ Somerset House

A pogonophile photography exhibition by Mr Elbank

Brock Elbank is an award-winning photographer who began his career shooting women’s fashion working for, among others, the Sunday Times Style, developing a distinctively super-colourised approach to male styling and portraiture, for clients like Nike, Coca Cola, San Pellegrino, Toyota, Dove and Snickers.

For nearly a decade he lived in Sydney where his work became more art-based. While there he shot a mens’ concept editorial for Kiwi magazine Black on Beards – one of the first to recognise the rise of the bearded look which is now a fashion marker around the developed world.

On the back of the commission Elbank had begun to make a series of portraits of men with beards when he met campaigner Jimmy Niggles. Niggles had set up a charity publicising skin cancer after the death of a close friend. He named it Beard Season and the idea was to grow a beard as a conversation starter in order to spread the word about this preventable disease, share his friend’s story and encourage people to go and get tested.

Jimmy Niggles © Mr Elbank

Jimmy Niggles © Mr Elbank

To support Niggles’ cause, Elbank started up #Project60, in which he would photograph 60 people with beards and raise awareness of the charity by posting them on social networking sites. He received over 1,200 applications from around the world and selected sitters to come to his Warwickshire home to be photographed.

This exhibition displays large colour prints of the 60 portraits of beards, as well as 20 other works on the same theme commissioned for Somerset House.

Miles Better © Mr Elbank

Miles Better © Mr Elbank

The show includes the famous facial hairs of actor John Hurt and models Ricki Hall and Billy Huxley, but also other interesting characters such as tattooist Miles Better and British woman Harnaam Kaur, who has been growing a beard since the age of 16 after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition which causes excess hair growth.

There are also two sweet and funny pics of Elbank’s little daughter, Elkie, sporting an impressive ‘full set’.

John Hurt © Mr Elbank

John Hurt © Mr Elbank

Three short thoughts

Men What a pleasure to see an exhibition of visual art dedicated to men, a welcome relief from the diet of scantily clad or naked women, in photos or art, which dominate so many media and exhibitions.

Tattoos Lots of the subjects are ‘bohemians’ or ‘hipsters’, which means lots of them have tattoos. In fact the tattoos are often more impressive than the beards.

Billy Huxley by Mr Elbank

Billy Huxley by Mr Elbank

Eyes All the images look as if they have had their colour enriched, but something has been done to make the eyes particularly piercing. Bright blue or warm brown, after you’ve got over the beard and the tatts, it’s often the eyes which emerge as the strongest part of the image. Surely John Hurt is wearing brown contacts?

Stefan Bostrom © Mr Elbank

Stefan Bostrom © Mr Elbank

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