In a white room, in the South Wing of Somerset House sits the portraits of over 80 fetchingly bearded models from all walks of life. It started off as #Project60, a collaboration between acclaimed English photographer Mr. Elbank and Australian philanthropist, Jimmy Niggles, after the death of Niggles’ friend of skin cancer to promote awareness of the preventable disease and share his story.
This collection, with some portraits exclusive to Somerset House, is stunningly shot to highlight the variety of beards of the internationally shot models. The subjects vary from models, farmers, an actor, a drag queen and even a woman.
I saw Harnaam Kaur’s (above) portrait twice before realising that she was female, when reading her story this instantly became one of the most memorable portraits of the whole exhibition and was more than deserving of its own wall. In short, she is a young woman who suffers from polycystic Ovary Syndrome which causes excessive hair growth, however she has embraced after becoming Sikh which forbids her from cutting body hair. In a society that is very superficial, she is brave to broadcast this for a selfless cause.
There is an engaging element to the series as the portraits draw you in, each detail is clear to see: the gleam of mischief in Billy Huxley’s eyes, the hint of ginger is a black man’s beard, the youthful whimsy of Elbank’s children placed in a grid of portraits. Elbank experiments with colour richness to makes some features pop against the neutral background and it definitely pays off.
Overall, this is a stunning series about a serious subject that doesn’t take itself too serious. I would say go and see it, but I saw it on it’s last day; it is definitaley worth checking out some of the available portraits on Mr Elbank’s tumblr – mrelbank.tumblr.com