Beard Photography Exhibition at Somerset House, London
5-29th March 2015
pogonophile: admirer or lover of beards.
Pogonophilia is not a crime. I must admit that there was an ulterior motive in my visit to Somerset House to catch the Courtauld’s TEDx conference. There is absolutely no escaping the allure of an exhibition purely dedicated to beautiful men with beards (especially with a charitable edge). Even the chunkier specimens proved to resemble a Disney prince when their facial fuzz had been suitably styled. A veritable pogonophile (beard enthusiast), I immediately surrendered myself to the overwhelming urge to stroke each and every canvas. I like beards, no I love them. It's not only the chiselled, rugged appeal, which they bring to even the podgiest of faces, but that sense of nostalgia, which the trend tunes in to. I am quite happy for London to be filled with old souls, gentlemen with traditional values exemplified by their choice of facial grooming. From rugged old sailors to stained tattoo artists like Miles Better and the odd Brooklyn hipster with piercing blue eyes, there was a beard for everyone. We could feel the compression on the tubes as hipsters funnelled in from Shoreditch, swarming around the sanctification of their most prevalent trend.
The photographer Mr Eldbank sought to explore grooming as a theme to engage with the current trend for the old school, intellectual look, which initially swept through Shoreditch. Project60 began as a way of supporting the viral personality Jimmy Niggles’ efforts to spread his friend’s cancer story, which progressed into this full exhibition of bearded beauties. From more than a thousand applicants, Eldbank photographed the most curious of faces, which will all contribute to his efforts to get people to take frequent skin checks that can help reduce cancer statistics. I have no doubt that next week’s life drawing class featuring nude, bearded gentlemen will be a hit alongside Captain Fawcett’s grooming parlour talk the following day.
Particularly intriguing was his engagement with socio-political issues with the British woman Harnaam Kaur’s androgynous beard, which has been a side effect of her encounter with polycystic ovary syndrome. I was thrilled to see how Mr Elgin normalised such a societal taboo, especially given that 21st century women feel progressively pressured to remove their body hair. This topic linked in perfectly with the drag queen Jacob Mallinson Bird’s discussion of gender at our later TEDx conference. Beards aside, I would highly recommend getting tickets next time TEDx comes to London. From cell regeneration to holocaust survivors and digital innovators, there is no end to the eclectic knowledge you can acquire.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com