A week ago I was standing in line at Whole Foods, mentally justifying spending a whole day’s food budget on toasted almonds and blackberry-lemon sorbet, when I looked up and was transfixed by a pair of blue-green eyes. It was the cover of the October 2009 Details Magazine and it got me good.
Amidst the starlets with their wind-blown hair, pouty lips, flirty glances and perfect(ly photoshopped) bodies, this image stood out. One could argue that’s because Mr. Owen is not an unattractive gentleman, and most photographs of him would be appealing, but there are countless ways that this could have been shot and this one truly works.
The blues in the background, clothing and text bring the attention right to his eyes, which are connecting directly with the viewer (oogler…newborn stalker?). He’s well-dressed, but there’s a rugged quality with the popped collar askew and facial lines. The lighting is even, the darks are deep, the focus is crisp, the intention is direct. If you want a magazine to jump off of a stand because of a face, you don’t get much better than this.
I had to see who shot it and it was no real surprise to find that it was Norman Jean Roy.
You can see all of the photos from the spread at the Details online feature
Norman Jean Roy is a contracted photographer for Condé Nast and his images are all over the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair. He’s represented by Art Department (who has, um, a few other photographers you may have heard of) and has proven that he can beautifully accomplish nearly every type of portrait, from the obligatory studio groups:
to Hollywood glamour,the situational professional,the actress close-up,the whimsical moment,the dignified studio,the gracefully athletic,the powerful star,the model editorial,and the normal-made-chic.
He’s good. Real good. His photographs are clean, dazzling, accessible, gorgeous. And I’ve found more than once that I’ll be drawn to his portraits before even glancing at the name.
But I wouldn’t be nearly as interested in that name if I hadn’t seen a show of his personal photographs, Traffik, at a Milk Gallery opening last year. Roy worked with Somaly Mam, a former sex slave, and her organization AFESIP to photograph of victims of the Cambodian sex trade.
Although the evening’s mixture of being the fashionable place-to-be-seen with showing the grave and disturbing subject was somewhat troubling (Curator Magazine has a spot-on review here), it was invigorating to see such images by such a photographer.
When a photographer decides to turn his eye towards a subject that demands thoughtfulness and attention and employ his considerable skills to create a body of work such as this, that’s when I truly become a fan.
A final note: It’s unfortunately difficult to find many photos from this body of work- powerHouse Books has the best selection I could find.