2016 has been another exciting, challenging, and hard-working year at Rory Lewis Photography. Work has been diverse and interesting, ranging from portrait projects with their own unique scope and approach, to commissions which have involved Hollywood actors such as Toby Jones and Natalie Dormer. Likewise, I’ve been caught snapping esteemed Military and Political Leaders from some of the staunchest UKIP Brexiteers to decorated British Generals, Admirals and Air Marshalls.
The boundaries haven’t stopped there, and I’ve even photographed an Austrian General, the German Actor Wolf Kahler, the Danish Ambassador to the UK, hundreds of our soldiers, and many valiant Victoria and George Cross Veterans. A challenging, diverse, and international year!
Beyond sittings, I’ve been found leading teaching at the National Portrait Gallery and The Victoria and Albert Museum. Alongside this, it’s been a developmental year for myself and the business, seeing more of my work acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.
Portrait Exhibitions 2017 and Beyond
The culmination of many of the 2016 portrait projects which have seen my dedication and soaring mileage, will be a series of portrait exhibitions which will be held throughout 2017 and beyond in to 2018.
Soldiery, the portrait project, started at the end of 2015. It has been a labour of love (and roads!) and has seen me catalogue a vast range of the British Military personnel across the length and breadth of the country. Not only that, I’ve had to hop over to Germany to complete the project. Soldiery has been immense in scope, and it’s only with hindsight that it is possible to truly comprehend this. It has seen me complete around 250 portrait sittings with soldiers of varying stature and rank, from a huge variety of the diverse and iconic British Army.
Soldiery has resulted in an in-depth historical and inspiring record of the British Army in the early 21st Century in both exhibition and book format. Capturing the stature and essence of the individuals, the rank, and the regiment required adaptable skills to create powerful portraits whether dealing with the colourful pageantry style uniform of the Black Watch 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, or the dark and muted tones of the 1st Battalion Rifles.
I drew my inspiration from the prolific military portrait artist George Dawe, famed for his immense number of paintings of Russian Generals. I simply stand in awe at the number of portraits he painted, having seen my own artistry challenged and extended by my ‘mere’ 250 sittings!
As my reputation as a leading portrait photographer continues to grow, a great deal of my work is regularly focused on London. It’s not unusual to see me, and my gear, pounding the pavements of the capital, three or four times a week. These shoots see me flitting between portrait sittings to my bread and butter work of actor headshots and model portfolio creation.
London also draws me for another key reason. Much of my photography teaching work has focused on London in 2016. This usually takes the form of one-to-one photography workshops and also group photography workshops. Beyond London, my photography teaching and courses have continued and expanded in Dublin, Edinburgh, Belfast and Los Angeles.
Photography sittings and teaching have continued in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. I am still pleased to be able to offer headshots and portfolio services in the thriving screen areas of the north.
Reflections on the Year of Learning
New Year 2016 saw me label the year ahead as a ‘Year of Learning’. I kept this goal in mind at every opportunity the year presented. Most notably, 2016 presented me with the opportunity to teach photography at two iconic institutions: the Victoria and Albert Museum, and The National Portrait Gallery. What an honour! These experiences were not just learning opportunities for the attendees and delegates, but an opportunity for me to solidify my ideas and creative style of portraiture. I have felt privileged to teach literally nudging up against my own artistic inspiratory character, Holbein, the Renaissance Portraitist.
I have also enjoyed continuing my long term partnership with Calumet Photographic. This partnership has enabled me to deliver over two dozen workshops throughout 2016 specifically focused on the medium of portraiture. One-to-one portrait photography lessons have once again been a mainstay of the year, with various bespoke and tailored workshops for clients with their own individual learning requirements. 2017 will see this element of Rory Lewis Photography flourish, with over two dozen exciting workshops currently on offer over the coming year.
Portraiture in Essence
2016 started with an assignment which, for me, encapsulated my core aims and ambitions: to become ever more focused on the niche of portrait photography, and establishing myself as an accomplished Portraitist. My own unique style has been welcomed in sittings that have captured figures of historical and artistic importance. I challenge myself to capture every detail whilst revealing the character and eminence of the individual or their role.
The year, with a focus on portraiture, started off on the right foot with a sitting with actor Toby Jones. Jones, being one of my favourite actors, was a pleasure and a challenge all wrapped up in one. I wanted to encapsulate his bohemian image in an intrinsically unique and unadorned style. I wanted the images to disarm the viewer with Toby Jones’ distinctive and individual character. This work was great fun, Toby Jones was a joy to work with, and seeing his incredible talent first-hand was pretty rewarding!
From here, I was commissioned by the RAF to complete a portrait sitting with the outgoing Air Chief Marshall, Sir Andrew Pulford. Rapidly finding myself at ease in military settings thanks to my Soldiery project, this was a sitting right up my street. Sir Andrew Pulford is a helicopter pilot with over 5000 hours of flying time clocked up, and is a veteran of campaigns ranging from Northern Ireland, to the Falklands, to the Gulf War. This portrait sitting needed to capture Pulford’s vast experience and leadership. It was an enjoyable challenge. My reputation as a military portraitist has snowballed, largely due to the Soldiery project. Since the sitting with Sir Andrew Pulford I have been called on to create portrait sittings with a vast range of Army Generals, Admirals and Air Marshalls. 2016 is the year that much of the British Military Leadership paraded in front of my lens! I’ve photographed the likes of General Sir James Everard, to Lt. Generals Bashall and Poffley, as well as Admirals Zambellas and Jones.
Back to Acting
Not far into the year, at the end of January, I enjoyed working with Actor Julian Bleach. Bleach is an actor whose skill I have admired for some time. I particularly love Julian’s portrayal of Niccolò Machiavelli in Showtime’s series The Borgias. It was wonderful to work with, and photograph, him. His amazing bone structure made it brilliant for me with an opportunity to play around with shadows, highlights and back-lighting as I created the portrait.
With a Spot of Ambassadorial Spirit
Whilst visiting the capital in 2016 you would have been as likely to see me popping in to an Embassy as getting up close and personal with Holbein in The National Portrait Gallery. My Ambassadors Portrait Project started in 2015 and was extended this year when the Austrian General & Defence Attaché to UK, Brigadier Günter Eisl, commissioned a portrait to be held at the Austrian Embassy in London. Following this sitting, London’s only uniformed Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark, Claus Grube, sat for a portrait. Whilst focusing on their portraits it has also been fascinating to learn about our European allies and understanding their customs and traditions.
I’m pleased that 2016 saw my work features in Photo-Plus Magazine. Photo-Plus published a 5-page feature on my lighting techniques (one of my secret ingredients!) along with practical guides.
The Royal Photographic Society also featured a similar sized feature focusing on my lighting, specifically with the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. In the RPS feature I guide readers through the technical aspects of the shots providing you with an insight in to the unique nature of barracks photoshoots.
Throughout 2016, headshots have been continually commissioned. I’ve had actors, barristers, solicitors, corporate directors and office personnel all appearing before my lens. Notable characters have included American author Akemi Dawn Bowmen as well as X-Factor Winners Beau Dermott, and Richard and Adam Johnson.
Undertaking headshot sittings plays to my strengths as an experienced Portrait Photographer. The 10 years’ of headshot experience that I have feeds in to the reputation I have established as a portrait photographer of our time. I understand the skills and direction needed whether dealing with actors or managing directors, business leaders or politicians. I am able to lead the shoot and guide the individual in their portrayal to the camera. For headshots this is essential, as these pictures exude the image that ‘sells’ whether that’s as an image for a certain role, or as a business leader eminent in their field.
This is all possible because of a sitting that is relaxed and informal and accessible to everyone, whether a budding child actor or an established public figure. My portraiture expertise and experience enables me to assist you in developing styles, emotions and incorporating lighting that will make your headshot stand out.
From Army to Navy
Whilst Soldiery has seen a great deal of focus on the Army, just before jetting off to Los Angeles again this year, I was given the honour of photographing a truly historic series of portraits.
These portraits were commissioned by the Royal Naval and were to photograph the First Sea Lord Admiral, Sir George Zambellas at Admiralty House in Portsmouth. Embarrassingly, this was my first ever visit to this historic naval city. Not to worry: I also was able to take the opportunity to capture portraits of the First Sea Lord’s Staff, the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, Flag Lieutenant (Capt. Sam Shepherd GC), and Master Seaman Rob Martin.
I felt very much part of naval history undertaking these portraits at Admiralty House. I was just a stone’s throw from the majestic and imposing HMS Victory, as well as looking out at the Royal Navy’s powerful arsenal of warships. It wasn’t hard to find some inspiration, as I only needed to look up at the array of Naval Portraits adorning the walls.
Back to the Army
Similarly, before my LA trip, I had the opportunity to enjoy one of my most interesting military portrait sittings to date. In March, Major John Melville, late of the Commandos, and currently serving in The Royal Artillery, commissioned a Military Portrait to be held at the barracks in Liverpool. It was wonderful to meet John and fascinating to speak to him about his incredible career. Melville is a soldier of considerable experience, serving through the ranks as an enlisted man all the way to becoming an officer. His service in the military spans from the Falklands Conflict in 1982 to the Gulf War in 1990, and even the recent conflicts in Iraq 2003 & Afghanistan 2001–14. It was incredible and humbling for me to come face-to-face with such experience in toil and conflict.
Los Angeles – Rory Lewis Stateside
Once again, for a period of 2016, my base became Los Angeles. I spent a jam-packed four weeks in springtime, in the City of Angels, on various portrait assignments. This first 2016 jaunt saw me moving swiftly away from the formalities and uniforms of the British Military, and donning instead a pair of Converse, and exhibiting a more Californian, laid-back style.
In Los Angeles I undertook six equally impressive actor portrait sittings. First up was William Shatner at his offices in Studio City. This was followed by a memorable opportunity to get behind the lens with Richard Herd, an 83 year old legend who you might recognise from the classic film FIST or the sci-fi series ‘V’. A couple of Trekkies of course made their way on to my agenda, in the form of Jonathan Frakes and Jeffrey Combs. My last two LA sittings of that visit were of Harry Groener and Kitty Swink, both notable for their acting works.
I was once again back in LA later in the summer when I undertook sittings with Bo Foxworth, Tony Amendola and Saul Rubinck. I love this work for the passion and energy I get to capture.
Bo Foxworth, icon of both stage and screen, saw me directing an expressive shoot with extremes of emotion played out. Proving a natural to the static picture, through my ability to utilise movement, this shoot was a great success. I was treated to seeing Tony Amendola on stage at the Antaeus Theatre, well known from Mask of Zorro and Stargate SG1. Once again, movement was the key to a successful shoot. Finally, I became absorbed in a shoot with Saul Rubinck, star of Unforgiven and Warehouse 13, whereby the actor regaled a traumatic story and I captured the essence of emotion in each moment.
This visit to Los Angeles also saw me teaching my first portrait photography workshop with Samy’s Camera. This has been an interesting and exciting endeavor.
Brexit and Portraiture
Yes, Brexit got everywhere in 2016, including photography! With the headlines dominated by this moment in modern British and European history, I found myself commissioned to photograph UKIP spokesperson and Brexiteer, Suzanne Evans. Personally, being a die-hard Remainer, I put on my most neutral and composed manner, and got on with what would prove to be a fascinating sitting.
One of the highlights and honors of 2016 has been being commissioned by the Victoria & George Cross Association. I have been tasked with capturing portraits of individuals who have been decorated with either of the crosses, in both Britain and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. These are the Highest Orders for Bravery for both Military and Civilian actions.
This commission has proven to be exceptionally challenging, not least because the recipients live all over the globe, from Nepal to New Zealand, Canada to Australia. It is also proving to be an immensely humbling project as I hear stories of incredible valour and selfless courage. Being able to meet these living heroes in person is indescribable. Working with men and women who have not only saved lives, but done so at risk to their own safety, or have held their ground under overwhelming pressure – and often injury – has been a remarkable experience. If you would like to view the full collection of the tales behind the pictures, take a moment to visit my project page. I am also pleased that several of the portraits have been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery. They now have 5 of my portraits, a number I hope to expand on over time!
Rory Lewis Photography Goes to Ireland
In October I was very pleased to hold my first workshop in Dublin offering a weekend portraiture workshop. This has broken the ground for 2017 when I will be holding a full series of workshops in both Dublin and Belfast. I will also be speaking at Photofest in Dublin in the Spring.
I’ve also accepted the opportunity to speak at the Photography Show in Birmingham in March 2017 which will be another great honour, and another chance to hear about life behind the lens.
Two more notable portrait sittings of 2016 are my sitting with Wolf Kahler, the iconic face of many a German villain, and Natalie Dormer, almost the complete antithesis with natural beauty and an ability to captivate. Both were photographed at the London Studio.
Wolf Kahler has a repertoire of baddie roles behind him, and has been seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Barry Lyndon, Remains of the Day, and the fabulous and memorable Band of Brothers. I was commissioned to photograph him by United Agents. One look at his face and he’s in your memory forever, and I used this to my advantage for the sitting and directed him to make fierce and vivid expressions.
Natalie Dormer took a little while to relax in to my style of natural photography, but once she started to see the results she became excited by the work. Natalie has starred in Game of Thrones, the Hunger Games, and The Tudors, and has rapidly become one of Britain’s esteemed actresses. Her features and expressions lend themselves to my realistic photography, and without an airbrush in sight, the results speak for themselves.
Rounding Off 2016 With More Soldiery
As the year drew to a close, I concentrated once more on completing the Soldiery Project. The last few sittings of the year were amongst the most exciting. Notably I had a completely new experience photographing mounted soldiers from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. It turns out that horses are incredibly well-behaved sitters.
From here I swept in to modernity with sittings with the mechanised Royal Lancers, The Tanks and Troopers of the Queens Royal Hussars in Paderborne, Germany, and the striking Nepalese faces of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
Soldiery is nearing its end, with just three further sittings that will be completed by the end of January 2017. From here, Soldiery will be complete and appearing in the National Exhibition in 2017. Unveiling this exhibition to the public in 2017 will no doubt be a highlight of the year to come.