Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London 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 have SIX of my Portraits included in the collection.
Actor Rufus Sewell, London & Los Angeles Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Chelsea Pensioner Dougie Hassall is a very extraordinary pensioner. Reaching the grand old age of 100. The Royal Hospital in London Commissioned me to capture his portrait. It was a very humbling and remarkable experience for me to shake the hands of a 100 year old man. Dougie’s secret to old age, be kind to one another and live each day to the full.
Hassall the oldest sitter of my career is a World War Two Veteran, captured by the Japanese Army in 1941, and was a Prisoner of War for three-and-a-half years working at the docks in Saigon.
He remembers VJ Day vividly as the American Forces dropped leaflets over their camps to let them know the war had ended. He said: “We had an idea that it might be over about a week before; the Japanese were preparing to shoot us. We were starting to dig our own graves.
“They dropped the second bomb and the Japanese Commander, wisely, had a change of heart. I was quite fortunate as a Japanese Prisoner of War, I was with my friends. We were all in there together which made it easier.
“I have made my peace with the Japanese, I believe in forgiving and forgetting.”
Rory Lewis is a gem to work with! Both highly professional and easy going, he made me feel comfortable even in the short time I had booked. “He utilizes soft lighting, constant motion, and highlights your prominent/individual features. The result is incredibly unique portraits that showcase exactly who you are, not a generic headshot that could be anyone. I’m extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Rory and recommend him highly!”
“Absolutely LOVED shooting with Rory. His guidance during the shoot is fun and very supportive. He has a very kind and generous spirit and makes the session joyful as well as productive. Definitely coming back for more.”
“Such a pleasure working with Rory! He provides an upbeat comfortable shoot and the quality of his shots are always top notch. Would highly highly recommend working with him if you have the opportunity. Very grateful!”
Headshots Sessions completed it was time to turn my attention to teaching with a Portrait Photography Masterclass on Saturday 16th September. Throughout the day students worked with three different subjects, who modelled throughout the day. Learning lighting, camera technique and direction. I will also be returning to LA with several workshops in October, from Portraiture, to Fine Art Nude.
Making use of all my time in LA I was able to fit in a few portrait sittings. The first with Actor Bo Foxworth and Actress Elyse Mirto, capturing a dual portrait for their upcoming theatre production. The siting was very interesting indeed as both Bo and Elyse played around with different characters both serious and comical.
Elyse Mirto & Bo Foxworth
The second sitting with veteran actor Greg Itzin. Itzin has appeared in guest starring roles on various television shows like in “MacGyver”. His most recent major role has been President Charles Logan on the popular television drama 24. He received a Tony Award nomination for his role in the Pulitzer Prize–winning play The Kentucky Cycle. Greg has a stunning facial profile, an actor of incredible skill and talent, Itzin needed very little direction. My idea to capture Greg as the contemptuous villain.
Greg Itzin Rory Lewis Los Angeles Portrait Photographer
The third and final sitting gave me the opportunity to add to my Caravaggisti Project. In these portraits I have attempted to emulate Caravaggio’s naturalism and dramatic lighting with photographic effect. The subject actor Adrian LaTourelle. Using harsh lighting to create super detail in skin tone, texture and colour and inventive art direction. Adrain screamed in rage, enabling me to capture the energy of the moment.
Adrian LaTourelle Actor Los Angeles Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Simon Bainbridge, editorial director of the British Journal of Photography, said: “The portraits celebrate the unique heritage and diversity of modern Britain, as much as its thriving photography culture and the myriad styles and approaches they employ in their work. Yet, as much as our tribal allegiances are on show in many of the photographs, each image reminds us that, above all, we are a nation of individuals.”
Portrait of Britain is presented by British Journal of Photography. Photographer Rory Lewis portrait of Captain Anani-Isaac of The Royal Lancers. Captured for Soldiery (British Army Portraits), has been selected to appear in a Nationwide Exhibition.
Often commissioned by Corporate & Goverment Clients for Portrait Sittings. I’m no stranger to photographing headshots of prominent business, legal and political officials. Non of these sittings have been more unique than a photoshoot with Sir John Major, former Prime Minister of Great Britain.
I wrote to Sir John in 2016 to arrange the sitting and we decided to shoot in the Autumn of that year. However, Brexit came upon us and the sitting was postponed. Sir John, being a remain campaigner had to take time out. It wasn’t until July 2018, that the sitting could finally take place.
To prepare for my sitting, I began by studying Sir John’s portrait sitting with Yousuf Karsh, before watching his interviews and parliamentary debates on Youtube. I also read Sir John’s Autobiography to get a sense of his character and career as Prime Minister.
Preparation complete, my plan was to capture Sir John as the elder statesman, thoughtful and reflective. I found Major to be an extraordinary sitter. Speaking about his career, I was able to direct Sir John as he mediated on the past. One of my aims as a portraitist is to record the figures of our time, and this sitting certainly represents living history.
Sir John Major, KG, CH, PC Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Major became Prime Minister after Thatcher’s reluctant resignation in November 1990. He presided over UK participation in the Gulf War in March 1991, and negotiated the Maastricht Treaty in December 1991. He went on to lead the Conservatives to a fourth consecutive electoral victory, winning the most votes in British electoral history with over 14,000,000 votes in the 1992 general election, albeit with a reduced majority in the House of Commons. Shortly after this, even though a staunch supporter of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), his government became responsible for British exit from the ERM after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. This event led to a loss of confidence in Conservative economic policies and Major was never able to achieve a lead in opinion polls again.
Despite the eventual revival of economic growth amongst other successes such as the beginnings of the Northern Ireland peace process, by the mid-1990s, the Conservative Party was embroiled in scandals involving various MPs (including cabinet ministers). Criticism of Major’s leadership reached such a pitch that he chose to resign as party leader in June 1995, challenging his critics to either back him or challenge him; he was duly challenged by John Redwood but was easily re-elected. By this time, the Labour Party had abandoned its socialist ideology and moved to the centre under the leadership of Tony Blair and won a large number of by-elections, eventually depriving Major’s government of a parliamentary majority in December 1996. Major went on to lose the 1997 general election five months later, in one of the largest electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832.
Sir John Major, KG, CH, PC Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Sir John Major, KG, CH, PC Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Soldiery as a project, has given me the opportunity to indulge my historical ambitions. One of these creative urges has been to photograph a British Field Marshal.
Field Marshal is the most senior rank of the British Army. Higher than all the Generals I’ve captured thus far. Considered a five star rank in today’s modern militaries. In the British Army, Field Marshal has been the most senior rank since 1736.
Since the end of Empire, the rank has become somewhat redundant, this is due to the reduction in the size of Britain’s Armed Forces. The rank is now ceremonial, a gift of recognition from the sovereign to senior military figures, and bestowed on members of the Royal Family.
In 2012 Lord Guthrie was handed his Field Marshal’s Baton, in recognition of his remarkable leadership and service by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II . You can view a Pathe News Clip of another Field Marshal Jan Smuts being handed his Baton back in 1941.
The Baton is the main symbol of office, only given to Field Marshals. It stems back to ancient origins; namely those of the Roman Empire. A short heavy white Baton was a symbol of the Imperial Mandate given to Roman Military Legates. The Legate would hold the baton upon high, proclaiming, “above your head and mine to represent the power of the emperor”.
The British Field Marshal’s Baton is a symbol of the magnitude of office. The figure of St George and the Dragon is at the top, and at the bottom an inscription from The Queen to Lord Guthrie. The body of the Baton is covered with red velvet.
Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie Portrait Sitting, London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Looking for inspiration I started with Sir Thomas Lawrence, studying his portraits of the Duke of Wellington. Neo Classical in Style; Lawrence painted the Iron Duke on several occasions. His most vivid depiction, a triumphant portrait of Wellington which dominates the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. Lawrence’s composition is that of victory, heralding Wellington as the finest of military commanders and the liberator of Europe.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) 1814-15
Then I moved on to looking at Singer Sargent’s portrait of Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts. The work similar to Sir Thomas Lawrence’s neo-classical depictions. I turned to photography, browsing the National Portrait Gallery archive, I discovered the photographer Alexander Bassano, who photographed Field Marshal Hague. The portrait captured in a solemn and dutiful style, the depictions relay the finery, yet the obligation and commitment of Hague’s role.
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig by Bassano Ltd whole-plate glass negative, 19 July 1921 Alexander Bassano
With all this in mind I set to work, with a desire to create my own interpretation. Using a red velvet backdrop, I aimed to recreate the symbolism of the fire and blood, that is the Red Coat. The British Military Uniform associated with energy, war, danger, strength and Royal power. These words associate with the office of Field Marshal. Full finery was the order of the day, medals, orders, and number one dress uniform. Wanting to portray Lord Guthrie as the man he is; the Commander held in immense regard.
The positions directed for the sitting are reflective, shooting from a low angle to make Lord Guthrie look prominent and tall. Harsh lighting is utilised to preserve the detail. To me the Portrait is historical , a document, all the detail must be safeguarded. With this in mind I hope I’ve done my predecessors, proud in this my first portrait sitting with a British Field Marshal. Currently I’m accepting public & private commissions both Military and Non Military for Portrait Sittings so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I had assumed that only sheer luck or destiny would place Sir Patrick Stewart in front of my lens. Somewhat surprisingly though, after 24 years of dreaming about capturing his portrait, it was the sight of a vulgar, pink Hummer that inspired our meeting. The sitting would change my stars from a provincial photographer to an international portraitist working in London & Los Angeles.
Let me take you back to the beginning
How does one arrange a sitting with a screen icon? I began with Sir Patrick’s acting agency in London with little success. My letter was no doubt buried within a mountain of fan mail. Soon after though, I discovered that Sir Patrick was starring in Waiting for Godot at New York’s Cort Theatre on Broadway. Another letter was dispatched.
To my astonishment, a reply came through just a few weeks later. Alas, what I had originally thought to be success was a note from Sir Patrick, declining my invitation. Nevertheless, like the snail setting his sights on the Arc, I composed a compelling reply urging Sir Patrick to reconsider. A few weeks passed by again until, seemingly out of the blue, an email from the man himself appeared in my inbox. Sir Patrick was accepting my offer. His acceptance however, came with one condition – the sitting would have to take place in New York.
With no patron or funding to realise my opus, I realised that I would have to fund this trip on my own if I were to realise my dream of photographing such a prestigious, cultural icon.
Sir Patrick Stewart Film Actor Character Actor Portfolios London & Los Angeles
The appearance of the pink Hummer
The decision to bite the bullet and head to New York was made whilst shooting a wedding in Liverpool. As I sat in the hotel waiting for the bridal party to arrive, I wondered if I was actually ready to leave my comfort zone. Would I really be able capture the likeness of such a stalwart thespian, as well as show people what I was capable of? Was I really destined for something greater?
With thoughts of Bailey and Beaton in my head, the bride’s pink Hummer pulled into view. Was this what I wanted for the next 50 years? To be a second rate wedding and portrait photographer, capturing nothing but other people’s celebrations and dreams?
Sir Patrick Stewart
I decided enough was enough. A professional photographer is nothing without a compelling portfolio and my passion to create had become an addiction. I booked my plane ticket as soon as the wedding was over.
The session was arranged for May 5th 2014 and I arrived in New York little more than a day before the shoot. Be it the jetlag from travelling 3,606 miles, or the anticipation of meeting Sir Patrick, I couldn’t sleep the night before. Thankfully, one of my strengths is preparation and I had come to the sitting with ideas and a plan.
Ironically, the inspiration behind my work has never flown from photographers, but from portrait painters. In this instance, the foundations of my sitting with Sir Patrick stemmed from a 16th century portrait of Sir Thomas Moore by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Painted in 1527, Sir Thomas More would have been a very compelling and controversial sitter for Holbein. In this three quarter length portrait, the inclusion of a strikingly shallow backdrop intensifies the harshness of Moore’s presence. What makes the portrait even more arresting is Holbein’s use of colour. By incorporating bold areas of green (as a symbol of revelation) and red (signifying power and importance), Holbein was able to perfectly portray his subject’s status as a strong, intellectual figure.
Using Holbein’s painting as a muse, I began to think more about the subject of my own portrait. In recent years I have become accustomed to working with famous faces, but it was my sitting with Sir Patrick that helped to mould my approach and method. Part of this technique is to commit to thorough research. Research is critical when photographing prominent subjects, as more often than not you will find yourself limited to an incredibly short amount of time. After all, these are busy people indeed.
(Left) Holbein’s Portrait of Sir Thomas More, 1527 (Right) Rory Lewis Portrait Sir Patrick Stewart 2014
To begin this pre-emptive research, I look to photographers who have captured the subject previously; grappling with the mathematics of the portrait. (Head shape, good side, bad side. That kind of thing.) If the subject is an actor, I’ll take the time to binge watch any movies and TV Series, watching relentlessly for any details or angles that haven’t caught my attention before.
Studying his profile, I had repeatedly found that Sir Patrick had primarily been photographed as if still embodied by one of his characters. However, Holbein’s portrait had given me the inspiration to portray Sir Patrick quite simply as himself – the thespian. No greens or reds, but simply a black backdrop, pierced by the harsh lighting that I knew would amplify every detail of Sir Patrick’s intense gaze.
My plans and preparation had all led to this moment at Neo Studios in Manhattan; a little jet lagged, but nevertheless ready for one of the most important sittings of my career. Sir Patrick arrived at the studio and (after taking a deep breath) I introduced myself and began to summarise my ideas behind the portrait. I needn’t have been worried. Years of experience with taking direction made for an incredibly smooth start to the session and Sir Patrick remained engaged throughout.
In my style of simplicity, the portrait is all about the ocular. I focused Sir Patricks gaze across the lens, not into it, and an incredibly receptive Sir Patrick rapidly obliged me with a wonderful series of provocatively poised expressions.
After working for just 10 minutes, I was already happy with the results I was getting. This then provided me with the opportunity, for the last few minutes, to experiment and, most importantly, to enjoy my time with this compelling and absorbing subject. Rather than looking to the familiar heroic roles that Stewart’s name is inherently synonymous with, I directed Sir Patrick to assume the fierce, vengeful expressions of a calculated villain.
Rory Lewis Photographer Photographing Sir Patrick Stewart London Portrait Photographer
What emerged from this part of the session was a complex and vigorous character, embodied by energy and animation; a side of Sir Patrick that I thoroughly enjoyed watching unfold in front of my lens.
Though just a short 20 minutes, my sitting with Sir Patrick has been one of the most rewarding of my career so far. The chance to show what I can do and influence other photographers with my style of portraiture; to work with a level of client that consistently interests and inspires my work; and, above all, to work with a true British icon.
Thank you to everyone who attended the open evening of Soldiery (British Army Portraits) at the historical Athenaeum Club in Liverpool. The evening held in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund raised over £2500.00 for the charity, which helps veterans and their families in need of support. I was delighted to show the work to the public for the first time. Many of those who sat for portraits where also in attendance.
The exhibition began with a talk about the work, followed by a speech by the projects patron General Sir James Everard, KCB, CBE. I’m now looking forward to taking the work to London, for a full public exhibition at the National Army Museum. If you missed the event, don’t worry the evening was captured on video, please take a look at below.
The British Army is a diverse and proud organisation with a cherished heritage. ‘Soldiery’, has been a project focusing on historically documenting the modern British Army in a contemporary reflection of historical portraiture of days gone by. Photographed by Professional Portraitist Rory Lewis. Foreword by General Sir James Everard, KCB, CBE NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. This book features portraiture of the Army’s Leaders and Soldiers from a range of iconic regiments. Each depicts the unique identity of the soldier, regiment and rank. Rory also explains his inspirations from the master portraitists of the past and the story behind the project.