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
Portraits from a recent London Portrait Commission with Rona Fairhead, Baroness Fairhead, CBE Minister of State at the Department for International Trade. She is a former Chairman of the BBC Trust and was the first woman to hold the post. Really enjoyed capturing these portraits visiting the Ministry with my portable equipment, I was able to setup in a conference room utilising a portable grey backdrop and lighting equipment. If you are in need of Corporate Headshots, please check out my packages.
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.”
Black History Month has been marked in the UK for more than 30 years. It takes place during the month of October. It is held to highlight and celebrate the achievements and contributions of the black community in the UK. My own family stems from Black roots originating from Africa, Sierra Leone to be exact. My African Great Grandfather settling in the UK 1908, nearly 110 years ago. For my own contribution to Black History Month a blog post on just a hand full of the culturally and historically important Black Britain’s I’ve photographed over the years.
The Portrait Sitting took place back in 2014 for my ‘Northerners Photography Exhibition‘. Charles first appeared on television as a performance poet, which led to minor presenting roles. After finding fame in Red Dwarf, he regularly featured on national television with celebrity appearances on many popular shows while he continued to host a wide variety of programmes.
Charles is also known for narrating the comedy endurance show Takeshi’s Castle. From 2017, he has hosted The Gadget Show for Channel 5. His acting credits include playing inmate Eugene Buffy in the ITV drama The Governor, and leading roles in the British films Fated and Clubbing to Death. He has toured the UK extensively as a stand-up comedian.
Charles has hosted The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on BBC radio since 2002, and performs DJ sets at numerous clubs and festivals, nationally and internationally. In September 2015, he left Coronation Street after ten years, to film new episodes of Red Dwarf.
Back in 2016, I had to honour to photograph British Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry VC. 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 (View Full Series of Posts)
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.
Game of Thrones is a remarkable television extravaganza. George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” is brought to the screen as HBO sinks its considerable storytelling teeth into the medieval fantasy epic. It’s the depiction of two powerful families — kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and honest men — playing a deadly game for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and to sit atop the Iron Throne.
Natalie Dormer Portrait Sitting Rory Lewis Photographer London Portrait Photographer
Iain Glen is a Scottish film, television, and stage actor. Iain is best known for his roles in the Resident Evil films and for portraying Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones. Writing to Iain a few months ago to arrange a Portrait sitting for my ‘Northerners‘ Exhibition. Iain accepted my invitation, and the session took place in London last month. Iain arrived on his Cycle at London Portrait Studio, Cycling being Iain’s favorite pass time. After a chat about Iain’s recent projects, I explained the style of images I wanted to achieve. “I like to learn about each person I photograph, so I do my homework, this helps to start a conversation and put the sitter at ease.“
Iain admired my recent Portrait Sitting with Sir Patrick Stewart and wanted his images to be lit in the same style. After setting up my equipment, we went to work, creating striking Frames, Iain took over posing without direction towards the end of the session, and we managed to capture a selection of spontaneous images which really stand out.
With so much character and experience, I wanted to bring this through in the Final Images. To begin with we sat down to discuss the session I was interested to learn about Julian and his work. At present Julian is Staring in the Scottsboro Boys a Powerful West End Musical the Story of a Group of Nine Black Teenagers, brought together by fate in a case that sparked the American Civil Rights Movement. Julian has also played a great deal of Villains in his time and through our conversation I decided to create two looks; a Simple Plain Thoughtful Character Portrait, then turn it around and capture a Portrait of the Villain’s Julian has Played.
Actress Natalie Dormer, star of Game of Thrones, The Hunger Gamesand The Tudors sat for a portraitat the London Studio this 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 incredibly 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.
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.
Ian McShane is an English Actor, Director, Producer and Voice Artist. From Lovejoy to Deadwood and Pirates of the Caribbean, McShane is a Screen legend.
Ian McShane is an English Actor, Director, Producer and Voice Artist. From Lovejoy to Deadwood and Pirates of the Caribbean, McShane is a Screen legend. From a lawless saloon owner to the sexiest of beastly British mobsters, award-winning actor Ian McShane has, time and time again, captured the public’s attention by playing bad guys, scoundrels and thieves. “The devil has the best tunes!” he has said with a gleam in his eye. McShane was named “TV’s Sexiest Villain” by People Magazine, and was one of GQ’s “Men of the Year,” which described his portrayal of Deadwood’s Al Swearengenas “infectious” and “irresistible.” McShane haling from Blackburn, was a must for my Northerners Portrait Exhibition. I wrote to Ian’s agency and touched lucky as he was in London promoting his new Film Cuban Fury.
Arriving at Bleeding Heart Yard Photography Studios, Ian had the energy and drive of a man half his age, it’s very easy to forget that he is 71. Before the session I had a good chat with Ian he mentioned he had to skip his last term at RADA to make a movie “The Wild And The Willing”. “They told me, ‘If you do this film, you might not get your certificate.’What, I need a bit of paper on the wall telling me I’m an actor?” Still, they gave it to him in the end. “Signed by John Gielgud! I spoke to him about it much later on when he did an episode of Lovejoy. I said, ‘Thanks for signing my RADA certificate, John.’ Ooh, dear boy, not at all…‘He kept calling me Loveboy. ‘Loveboy, I say…’ Um, John, it’s Lovejoy.‘‘Lovejoy, Loveboy, who cares?’”
It was an amazing experience to photograph Ian. I am a BIG fan of Deadwood, and during the photoshoot I said jokingly “give me the Al Swearengen look“ Ian Replied in his signature voice “You will have to pay me for that.“ Plain simple expression was my theme for the Portrait Session, shot on black backdrops the images really show the texture and character of Ian McShane.
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.
The 2PPCLI uniforms differ slightly to British Soldiers, especially their helmets. They are called Pith helmets, and the choice of helmet style comes down to historical precedent specific to each regiment. You may also notice that the helmets the officers wear are entirely white, while the non-commissioned members have a coloured fabric on theirs. In the case of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, that colour is ‘French Grey’ which is the colour of the Third Canadian Division.
Accustomed to photographing British Soldiers for my ‘Soldiery Portrait Exhibition‘ it was refreshing to work with a Canadian Regiment. A real pleasure to work with the chaps. Its true what they say, Canadians are among the most polite people in the world.