Why, hello, Mr Armitage
, are you still there? Let’s get up close and personal with my favourite villain/hero/spy/romantic lead. What does RA’s pose tell us, when scrutinized the Barthesian way? What does the pose denote and connote in this image?
On the surface we see a man leaning very relaxed against the handrail on the wall. He has his right hip jutting out a bit, his left leg angled in a casual way. This contrasts slightly with the arrangement of his arms: They are folded across his stomach, making his shoulders slope down. He looks straight at the camera.
His pose tells us “I am relaxed, I am at ease. I do not mind being looked at by the photographer – and by any other viewers of the image subsequently.” He is not quite honest, though, because his body language also tells us that he is hiding something – the folded arms hiding the belly from view, a typical gesture of defense and shyness. However, coupled with the casual leaning against the wall the folded arms do not come across as a sign of defensiveness. It is more a sign of comfort.
Assuming that no element of the image is coincidental (the photographer is obviously more professional than I am when on assignment *hahahaha*), we can draw some conclusions here: The sitter is in no hurry, he has time to pose and stand idly while his picture is being taken. He obviously has no boss breathing down his neck, asking him to come back to work immediately. So despite being put into an industrial setting he is not a labouring man but more likely someone who works independently.
A special little look at the sitter’s left hand. This is visible in the shot – and very much so. The white skin tone stands out very clearly against the dark blue of the shirt and particularly the slender left thumb is drawing attention to itself because it has been spread off the rest of the hand and is pointing upwards. Essentially, this is a “thumbs up” and connotes a positive attitude of the sitter, at his most subconscious.
Hehe, I could just say “The face… is perfect.” But I won’t drool senselessly here, that doesn’t befit the serious tone of this academic exercise.
The sitter is looking straight at the camera. His mouth is closed. There is the hint of a smile as the corners of his mouth curve upwards just the tiniest bit. There is more friendliness in his eyes although they are narrowed just a tiny bit, belying a fraction of suspicion that the sitter may have. The stare of the eyes appears slightly piercing – but is not entirely unfriendly. The right eyebrow of the sitter is arching up slightly higher than the left, giving the impression of an ironic smile. That fits nicely with the narrowed eyes and the tiny smile.
Sitter A is obviously slightly detached from his experience here. He plays along in the game that is “Photoshoot with Joe McGorty” but he is maintaining some distance from it all, keeping himself in check. He is not giving himself over entirely but is communicating with his ironic stare that he is still in control: “This is not me. This is me being photographed. Something I would not usually do. But I am enduring it here because I have been asked to. It doesn’t bother me – I am confident and comfortable. But if it ends, I won’t be sad either…”
And what about Barthes’ myth? Yes, it is here, right here. And it is not something that we generally like. It is the myth of beauty, youth and looks that can kill. The image reinforces that looks matter in this world: People who keep themselves in shape and who have been blessed with dashing good looks will rule. They are the ones in power. But maybe that is also because power and beauty seem to be allies that seek each other out and mingle in an everlasting vicious circle: “I am good looking therefore I have power. Power makes me look good. I am good looking therefore I have power. Power makes me look good. I am good looking therefore I have power. Power makes me look good.” Ad nauseam…
Really quite annoying, isn’t it? We don’t just fall for it, we buy it. Every day. With every image we look at. And as photographers we are also complicit in this myth-making exercise. Despicable? Ha! We haven’t even looked at styling and photographic techniques. Get out of the game NOW or follow on to the next post, coming soon!