BEHIND THE MASK – A BAFTA CELEBRATION
At the end of January and into February, the West Wing of London’s Somerset House saw perhaps the biggest meeting of cinema glitterati outside of Hollywood’s annual Oscar night shindig, or this weekend’s upcoming BAFTA ceremony. Which is odd as, except for a special evening viewing attended by some of the subjects, the event which ran from the 20th January until the 7th February saw no physical film stars present. For this was Behind The Mask, an exhibition (over two years in the making) of photographs by celebrity photographer Andy Gotts who, in conjunction with BAFTA, has captured the essence of more than a hundred actors and actresses who have won or been nominated for a BAFTA award during the last sixty years.
The almost clinical appearance of the white washed exhibition rooms at Somerset House, were the perfect setting for Gott’s vivid portraits. Mostly in black and white – broken by the occasional subtly colour tinted study as in that of Julie Walters – here was an array of international thespians whose talent has been the stuff of celluloid dreams for generations of movie fans. As guests mingled amongst the anti-rooms which led off two long corridors, they were surrounded by small gatherings of star’s photos – with as little as one to a wall and certainly no more than three – giving the impression that Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and Helen Mirren were in the room with them.
Gott’s unflinchingly detailed close-up photography certainly doesn’t allow for the photoshopped style favoured by many celebrities. Instead every line, wrinkle and wayward hair could be seen on the frank and startlingly honest images of Dame Judy Dench and Sir Anthony Hopkins, which caught the viewer with their penetrating gaze. Equally as many of the subjects didn’t look you straight-in-the-eye, choosing instead to let Gott’s magical mastery of the camera speak louder than many a full-on gaze ever could. Some of the photograph’s – particularly those of younger subjects like Keira Knightley, nominated for Leading Actress in Atonement (2007), or Hollywood legends like Liza Minelli – were done with a softer focus in perhaps less harsh definition, a choice which probably said as much about the stars as any amount of verbose, studio directed publicity.
Here was a time-capsule – from Virginia McKenna, Best Actress for A Town Like Alice (1956), up to now with Julia Roberts, Supporting Actress Nominee for August: Osage County (2013), via Lauren Bacall, Al Pacino and Tilda Swinton amongst others – which like the films in which they feature, captures the magic of these celluloid stars preserving it for generations to come, an historic record of some of the most celebrated and revered individuals ever to grace the silver screen, seen in their natural glory.
Selected photographs from the exhibition will be on display at BAFTA’s HQ in London’s Piccadilly until the 16th February, the day of the EE British Academy Film Award 2014, as well Asprey House where the Official Nominees Party will take place. During the weekend of the awards ceremony BAFTA will project every one of the images onto the outer facade of its Piccadilly HQ, so that the public as a whole will be able to share in this very British celebration of cinema’s best.
If you feel flush you can buy copies of the prints (be warned they’re not cheap), with a percentage of the proceeds going to support BAFTA’s charitable work. Further details can be found at:
ANDY GOTTS – http://www.andygotts.com/categories