I love the staying power of some images and looks that the exquisitely talented British actor Richard Armitage has—as evidenced by the recent newer portrait accompanying Mr. Armitage’s IMDB profile portrait.
This 2011 portrait of Richard Armitage from the 2011 Project Magazine photoshoot (right; edited for higher resolution at a smaller size, and with some gaussian blurring) and its feature article was part of The Hobbit early press—and is fabulous!
However the original portrait image saved from the IMDB site was rather large, but not high resolution—and rather pixelated. So though one could discern the distinct detail of the seams stitching on the gorgeous midnight blue coat, it left his face looked rather dappled. And I like sharp images. Ha!
A while back, I had dubbed this pose of Richard Armitage’s the “over the shoulder smoulder”—which contributed to my whimsical spelling of the word smolder as smoulder, which means to burn slowly–with the assonance and alliteration of those two words.
To me, this portrait pose does not look posed—a tribute to Richard Armitage’s ability to immerse himself in the moment, and for him to create a curiosity in me of what might have interested him as he turned to look back.
Because to me, he certainly looks interested, bored, or perhaps critical? Was it something that he saw in the studio that annoyed him? Someone in the background who walked into his eyeline? Was he thinking about something and his thoughts were transferred to his focused and brooding look? Or since he was being wrapped in heavy and hot winter coats, had they cooled the studio down—thus making him merely chilled?
Yet Richard Armitage also looks fierce, him having a don’t mess with me gaze. At the time these 2011 Project Magazine portraits of Richard Armitage were released (see more examples at RAnet), I felt that he was channeling his role of Thorin Oakenshield in this photo shoot–fierce, determined, warrior like, regal. I still do.
And when many of Richard Armitage’s past (most familiarly, right in 2009) and later portrait promos had him looking directly at the camera lens—as if he was looking out to his fans—the averted gazes in some of the 2011 portraits leant both a departure and a mystery for me. Because his later portraits have a smattering of both straight on and averted gazes.
First, in 2011, he was engaging the camera lens in a different way, by not engaging with it. His averted gaze with a scowl/frown does not let you in, as if he is being wary, suspicious, uncommunicative (below again).
uncropped image IMDB cropped image, edit for resolution
I know that sounds like a conundrum. But it seems to fit the King Under the Mountain persona. Thorin was reserved, a man of few words—more a man of action. Again, Richard Armitage might have been channeling that studied aloofness to preserve a sense of privacy that as a people’s King might get lost.
So the scowl or frown on his face was different than his prior portraits which mostly had smiles or half smiles—or at least, no frowns. And for whatever reason, the stern 2011 portrait images above seemed more in control of his image than the smiling faced or come hither look (below from 2008) Richard Armitage portraits were of the past.
And second, in the full image we see his arms and hands folded over himself, hugging himself—seemingly keeping his jacket closed—perhaps in protection, or even as a self comforting gesture.
They say it is lonely at the top, and a King without a Queen might be quite lonely. While Thorin helped his people rebuild their lives and families, he was not able to do that for himself. So I also return to a theme again of isolation for Thorin—the unrelenting loneliness (right via LeeW-F) that his purpose driven life forged.
So, yes, Richard Armitage with his over the shoulder smoulder looks sexy as hell in these 2011 images—full size or cropped. And he could gaze in my direction—or not– with his smolder any time. Ha! So though there are yet still underlying questions that I have regarding his portrait photo shoots in general—and the 2011 ones in specific—pertaining to context and temperament and intention of Richard Armitage as elucidated above, I think that I will just enjoy the smoulder for now.. ;->
P.S. And just for fun, below is a more teasingly smiling over the shoulder smoulder from Richard Armitage at the 2015 Comic Con that I had written about previously. Ooh! Now that’s a sexy over the shoulder smoulder! Ha!