Stephen Graham Portrait Sitting

Stephen Graham Portrait Sitting Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer

Actor Stephen Graham is an English film and television actor and fellow scouser. Who is best known for his roles as Tommy in the film Snatch (2000), Andrew “Combo” Gascoigne in This Is England (2006), Billy Bremner in The Damned United (2009), notorious bank robber Baby Face Nelson in Public Enemies (2009), Scrum in the Pirates of the Caribbean films and he starred as Al Capone in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

Stephen accepted my invitation to sit for a portrait at the London Studio last week. I’ve admired his work for many years. Graham is a screen icon, exceptionally talented and known for playing no-nonsense gritty characters. I aimed to capture Stephens métier in my portraits, asking him to pose as emotionless, then changing to capture fierce and angry expressions.

Stephen Graham Portrait Sitting Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer

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15 Minutes with Bill My tale of photographing a screen icon

William Shatner is best known for his role as Captain James T Kirk on the Starship Enterprise. I’ve had the honour and pleasure of having him in front of my lens on two occasions. In total my time spent photographing him has equated to 15 minutes. 15 minutes with Bill.

 

Being an ardent Star Trek fan, as well as prolific portrait photographer with a strong reputation for icons of stage and screen, this short time with the screen legend has amounted to an extraordinary experience. Yes I’m just a little star struck.

 

To meet one of your childhood heroes can be both awe-inspiring and utterly terrifying at the same time. Now try operating a camera under the pressure!

William Shatner Portrait Rory Lewis Photographer Los Angeles, Portrait Photographer

Where it All Began

 

My first sitting with William Shatner was back on 12th February 2015. At the time I was travelling to LA and wanted to take the opportunity to include Shatner in my Expressive Portraits exhibition.

 

Prior to my LA trip I had written to Shatner expressing my wish to include him in the project. I have to admit it was a stab in the dark. Nonetheless, the reply came that he would do me the honour of accepting my invitation.

 

In preparation for the shoot, I arrived at Shatner’s office at 10am feeling a mixture of nerves, apprehension, and barely-concealed excitement. As I approached the window I could see a large looming figure behind the blinds. It was him. There, right before me stood one of my childhood ‘greats’. Gulp.

 

The door was opened by Kathleen, Mr Shatner’s PA, who kindly informed me I had just 10 minutes to set up and 5 minutes to shoot as he was due to take a flight. No pressure then! I couldn’t let my nerves get the better of me, but how to shoot a living legend in just 5 minutes?

 

Fortunately experience prevailed and I was ready and waiting as Bill entered to take his seat on the stool. In my mind’s eye he was, until this point, a flamboyant character. As I took a deep breath and introduced myself I realised I was completely wrong. Rather than brash and larger than life, Shatner is a very quietly spoken man of only a few words.

 

As a portraitist I have learned to separate the individual’s character as an actor from the characters they have played. In the interests of simplicity (bearing in mind the 5 minute window) I opted straight for this method. However, my initial direction didn’t receive the response I’d hoped for. My request for a plain expression was met with “I don’t do plain!” I quickly took the opportunity to explain my reasoning: that as a character actor the viewer needed a blank canvas, an expressionless person, on which to hang their own thoughts. No good, no bad, no love, no hate, no character, just an opportunity to view and assume. In my experience it is this essence which makes an image thought-provoking and memorable.

 

With my explanation, Bill became more amiable. Deep breath again, using the word “emotionless” in preference to “plain”, this time he agreed. Mr Shatner took his own breath, closed his eyes, and then looked up directly in to the lens, clearly having cleared his mind of thought or question.

 

I clicked. The result was my first thought-provoking portrait of William Shatner. In 5 minutes magic had been created.

William Shatner Portrait Rory Lewis Photographer Los Angeles, Portrait Photographer

 

Second Time, Double Time

 

The second time I photographed Shatner was when I returned to LA in April 2016. Once more I got in touch to arrange a sitting. I had so much more I wanted to explore in the subject that is William Shatner. I was truly delighted to learn of his acceptance. Even more, Shatner himself was ecstatic with my first efforts. I’d done it, in just 5 minutes!

 

The sitting took place on 4th April 2016. Once again I turned up at the office to be greeted by Mr Shatner’s assistant. This time I met a more relaxed Shatner with nowhere to go, and a little more time on his hands. He was more casually dressed, wearing a black shirt as I had requested, and was available for the double the previous five minutes.

 

Preparation for a Portrait Sitting

 

Before any sitting I always spend time planning. This ‘behind the scenes’ time is invaluable for the ultimate portrait. In the case of Shatner I spent hours looking at material from both films and television programmes, as well as reviewing and assessing the other available portraits of Bill to date. There was a common theme running through 99% of them: Bill as the hero.

 

Speaking about this type casting, Bill has quipped: “I always play the hero and always get the girl.” To make a portrait of Bill that was different and unique I wanted to draw him out of his comfort zone. I wanted to polarise him away from the ‘hero’ and instead get him in the camp of the villain.

 

Take Robin Williams for example: a face well-documented in comedy and farce. Yet, when he was given the creepy and darker character named Sy in the psychological thriller One Hour Photo, we saw something utterly new, unnerving and compelling.

 

This became my impetus for the sitting with Shatner. I wanted this to be about Shatner the ‘bad guy’. I took the time to explain my reasoning and idea to Bill and he was very happy and compliant to give it a go.

 

The Portrait Sitting

 

In directing the screen icon, I drew on Shakespeare. I asked Bill to think about a Shakespearian villain and to assume this as his muse. This enticed Bill to gaze leeringly in to the lens as we transformed the heroic Shatner in to the evil alter-ego.

 

After 10 minutes, my sitting with Shatner came to an end. In total, I had experienced 15 minutes with one of my absolute screen heroes in front of my lens.

 

Lessons Learned

 

In order to direct an actor who you have admired for many years is an incredible opportunity. Photography is about so much more than merely clicking the shutter and getting some lighting tricks right. Successful photography, and successful portraiture, is about evoking a feeling. This process is impossible without direction. Direction is key.

 

When I teach photography workshops, students are frequently overawed by the number of different camera and lighting techniques available. This is the stuff of textbooks. However, what transforms you from someone who can operate the equipment to a talented photographer is what happens in that moment when the lights are set up and the camera is ready, and you are alone with the subject. This transcends the techniques and instead becomes about invention. A good photographer, therefore, is a good director.

 

Shakespeare, in Henry V, once penned:

“Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention!

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”

 

Emotive and powerful, and rousing to boot, in portrait photography is of utmost importance to set the scene. You must find your muse and use it to direct. You must think outside of the box, and take your inspiration from cinema, art, or simply by digging deep in to the wealth of your own experiences to find something new and original.

 

 

Victoria & George Cross National Portrait Gallery Acquisitions

National Portrait Gallery Rory Lewis PhotographerWe are pleased to announce that a series of portraits of Victoria & George Cross Holders captured by Rory Lewis Photographer, have been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery London.  The Portraits where taken for the ‘Victoria & George Cross Association.

 

Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and … to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’. It is an absolute honour to increase my acquisitions from One Portrait to Five Portraits now in the galleries archive. The Gallery having previously acquired my portrait of Actor David Warner.

Peter Norton GC, Bill Speakman VC, London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Peter Norton GC, Bill Speakman VC, London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Margaret Vaughan GC, Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Margaret Vaughan GC, Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Victoria & George Cross Portraits

Recently I was honored to be commissioned by the Victoria & George Cross Association to capture portraits of those who have been decorated with Britain and the Commonwealths Highest Orders for Bravery for both Military and Civilian actions. The commission has been exceptionally challenging; the recipients who live all over the globe from Nepal and Canada to New Zealand & Australia. The project is underway and has clocked up the air miles taking me across the globe to capture the men and women who have been posthumously decorated for exceptional bravery.

 

The stories of valor; selfless courage and fearlessness I have read are incredible and to meet living heroes is indescribable. These men and women have saved lives at the risk of their own; held their ground under immense pressure and injury to themselves. I wanted to post just a few of the tales of valor, if you would like to view the full collection please see my project page.

 

Johnson Beharry VC

Lance Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC (born 26 July 1979) is a British Army soldier who, on 18 March 2005, was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior tracked armoured vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Pte. Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.

 

While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry’s head, and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering in March 2005 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

 

Peter Norton (GC)

Peter Norton (GC) London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Peter Norton (GC) London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Norton was second-in-command of the American Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC) based in the outskirts of Baghdad. Going to the aid of a United States Army patrol that had been attacked by an improvised explosive device (IED) on 24 July 2005, he was checking for the presence of further devices when a secondary victim-operated IED exploded. He lost his left leg and part of his left arm, and he sustained serious injuries to his other leg and lower back. Despite his injuries, he continued to give instructions to his team, suspecting that further devices might be in the vicinity. He refused to be evacuated until he was certain that all personnel on the ground were aware of the danger. A third device was subsequently located and dealt with the following day. He was promoted to major on 31 July 2008. On 1 August 2013, Norton retired from the army on medical grounds.

 

Margaret Vaughan GC

Margaret Vaughan GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Margaret Vaughan GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

May 28th, 1949, a party of Scouts, aged between 11 and 15 years, visiting Sully Island were cut off by the rising tide from a causeway which led to the mainland. Most of the boys got safely across, but two of them were forced off the causeway by the strong tide. The leader of the party returned to help the elder boy but in the struggle he too became exhausted. Margaret Vaughan (aged 14 years) saw from the beach the difficulties they were in. She undressed and swam towards them over a distance of some 30 yards in cold, rough water and against strong currents due to the rising tide. On reaching them she towed the boy to the shore while he supported himself by grasping the straps of her costume and his leader’s coat. At about ten feet from the shore a life belt was thrown in which the boy was placed by the other two and the three reached the shore safely. Margaret Vaughan’s action probably saved the life of the Scout leader as well as that of the elder boy.

 

Jim Beaton VC

Jim Beaton GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Jim Beaton GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Beaton received the George Cross in 1974 for protecting The Princess Anne from the would-be kidnapper Ian Ball during an attack in The Mall, London. He received the Director’s Honor Award of the United States Secret Service in the same year. He was made an LVO in 1987 and promoted to CVO in 1992.

 

In March 1973, Beaton was transferred to the Royalty Protection Squad, A Division, and from 14 November served as a Personal Protection Officer to Princess Anne. He was given the number 11 in the small team responsible for protecting members of the Royal Family. On 20 March 1974 the princess and her husband Captain Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace from a royal engagement. Their car was stopped in the Mall by another vehicle driven into its path.The car was driven by Ian Ball, who was later declared to be mentally ill; Ball jumped out of his vehicle and tried to force the Princess from her car. He shot the royal chauffeur, Alex Callender, and a passing journalist, Brian McConnell, who tried to assist. Inspector Beaton was shot three times, including serious wounds in the chest and abdomen, and a gunshot wound to his hand, sustained when he tried to block Ball’s weapon with his own body, after his own gun had jammed. Beaton also sustained injuries to his pelvis while trying to disarm Ball. For his bravery Beaton was awarded the George Cross; Callender and McConnell were each awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Beaton remained with the Princess until February 1979.

 

Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC 

Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Limbu was 26 years old, and was a lance corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, British Army during the Indonesian Confrontation when, on 21 November 1965 in Sarawak, Borneo, Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu was in an advance party of 16 Gurkhas when they encountered about 30 Indonesians holding a position on the top of a jungle-covered hill. The lance-corporal went forward with two men, but when they were only 10 yards from the enemy machine-gun position, the sentry opened fire on them, whereupon Limbu rushed forward and killed him with a grenade. The remaining enemy combatants then opened fire on the small party, wounding the two men with the lance-corporal who, under heavy fire, made three journeys into the open, two to drag his comrades to safety and one to retrieve their Bren gun, with which he charged down and killed many of the enemy.

 

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Actor Wolf Kahler Portrait Sitting

Wolf Kahler has an instantly recognisable face. You would have seen Wolf appear in movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Barry Lyndon and Remains of the Day, and TV series such as Band of Brothers to name but a few. Wolf, inspired by my recent Portrait Sitting with friend and Actor Steven Berkoff accepted my invitation to sit for a portrait at the London Studio.

 

Wolf has an amazing profile to photograph, I can see why he is always cast in villainous roles, with a Germanic, Prussian-like bone structure. I directed Kahler to assume fierce yet vivid Expressions to directly to the lens. Wolf’s piercing expressions are breathtaking. Portraits must have energy, the still image should hold the viewer. I encourage my sitter’s to express themselves using inventive scenarios and direction. This enables the sitter to show emotion; connecting with the viewer. The sitting was a memorable one, Wolf regaled me with several tales from his casting with Stanley Kubrick for Barry Lyndon to his experience working with Harrison Ford in India Jones.

 (Rory Lewis)

 (Rory Lewis)

 (Rory Lewis)

Shotkit Book Collaboration

I’m delighted to announce a collaboration with Shotkit’s Mark Condon who have published a collection of my work in the Shotkit Book Volume II. If you are looking for inspiration, tips, tricks and ever wondered what’s in the camera bags of some of the world’s most established photographers. Mirrorless, Medium Format, Film, dSLR, smart phone… if it takes a photo, it’s in the Shotkit Book! Discover the cameras, lenses, flashes and all other equipment world-class photographers from a variety of disciplines use to make their jobs easier.

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Shotkit Volume II Rory Lewis Photographer

Victoria & Albert Museum Workshop

Thank you to everyone who attended my Three Day Portrait Photography Workshop at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It was wonderful to teach such a diverse group with several of the attendees coming from Portugal Belgium and France. The workshop was a pleasure to teach, with access to an immense collection of art to inspire the delegates throughout the three days.

 

Working with three unique models on each day the delegates were able to hone their skills, learning how to light and direct subjects for many different situations. The delegates were then able to plan and execute their own photoshoots with the models taking inspiration from the galleries collection of portraiture.

 

I’m looking forward to returning to the V&A next year to teach another workshop. If you are interested in my Photography Courses, I have a range of workshops on offer including group as well as One-to-One Sessions.

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Victoria & Albert Museum Rory Lewis Photography Workshops

Natalie Dormer Portrait Sitting

Natalie Dormer Portrait Sitting Rory Lewis Photographer London Portrait PhotographerActress Natalie Dormer, star of Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games and The Tudors sat for a portrait at the London Studio several weeks ago. I wrote to Natalie inviting her to sit for my Expressive Portraits Project just over a year ago; it just goes to show how many letters and requests she receives. Natalie is exceptionally talented with an incredible natural beauty. As a realist portrait photographer Natalie was a little apprehensive of my style. In the modern world people are obsessed with removing the detail through airbrushing.

Natalie Dormer Portrait Sitting Rory Lewis Photographer London Portrait Photographer

Natalie Dormer Portrait Sitting Rory Lewis Photographer London Portrait Photographer

My style is to preserve even line every mark every mole. I try to present my subjects as they really are, flaws and all, while allowing for moments of candidness and vulnerability. Less austere and more deliberate than a mug shot, my work often brings facial features into high relief, allowing expressiveness to recede and making the sitter seem somehow up-close and removed at the same time. Natalie indulged me, enabling me to capture a series of wonderful frames. Her apprehension turned to excitement when she viewed the final results which edified her unique and Natural Beauty.

Natalie Dormer (born 11 February 1982) is an English actress. She is best known for her roles as Anne Boleyn on the Showtime series The Tudors (2007–10), as Margaery Tyrell on the HBO series Game of Thrones (2012–present), Moriarty on the CBS series Elementary (2013–15), and as Cressida in the science-fiction adventure films The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) and Part 2 (2015). She has been nominated for Best Performance at the Gemini Awards for her work in The Tudors. She has also been nominated for a Screen Actor's Guild Award for her performance in Game of Thrones. (Rory Lewis)

Samy’s Camera’s Photography Courses Los Angeles

I’m pleased to announce my partnership with Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Samy’s recently interviewed me for their BlogThroughout 2016 & 17 i’ll be teaching workshops and seminars on portrait photography, lighting, direction and how to market yourself as a photographer. To check out the latest workshops and courses click here. I will also be offering One-to-One workshops in the Los Angeles area. 

Samy's Camera Weekly Deals

British Photographer Rory Lewis Samy's Cameras USA

British Photographer Rory Lewis Samy’s Cameras USA