10 questions for Brock Elbank

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April 14, 2014

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There aren’t many people who actually make a living from beards and tattoos, but Mr Brock Elbank has got it nailed.
Renowned photographer, Elbank, has snapped some of the most iconic bearded/inked folk around. If you are interested in facial hair and tattoos then it’s highly probable you’ve already seen his work – the internet is full of his instantly recognizable photographs.

We were delighted to grab a few moments with Elbank to discover more about the inspiration behind the lens.

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Tell us about your background and how you first got in to photography.

May 1987 – Anton Corbijn’s cover artwork for U2’s The Joshua Tree album.

Where are you currently based?

England.

What is the draw to the bearded & tattooed men you photograph?

My friend Miles Better grew this big, ginger beard 8-9 years ago and I decided to shoot his portrait. I’d photographed Miles often over the past 20 years. I had a beard around that time and just started shooting more beards. That was 216 beards ago…
As for the tattoos, Miles has done 95% of my tattoos, that how we met 20 years ago, so it’s always been there around me, but back then being heavily tattooed wasn’t as mainstream as it is now. Miles used to get looked at by security guards in stores in London, back then.

Do you have one particular story that stands out in your mind?

Probably my friend Jimmy Niggles and his thisisbeard website.
He grew his beard when a close friend, Wes Bonny, found he had melanoma on his neck and sadly died at too young an age. Jimmy started to try and raise awareness in Australian men, to get checked and covered up from the Australian sun.

Also Mr Frank Moon, a friend of my big sister. 74 years old and he’s never really been photographed before. He’s sat 3 or 4 times for me now and it’s interesting to watch him come out of his shell. He’s a true gentleman and doesn’t understand what the fuss is about, which makes for a more interesting subject. In a time where everybody is uploading hundreds of selfies that are of no real interest, he has a real character and a face that tells many stories.

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How much has the recent trend for facial hair impacted on your work? Is it a fashion thing, for you?

Very little, to be honest I’m more interested in individual style and character than people who think they are trendy.

Who is the most inspiring subject you have worked with and why?

Mr Frank Moon. Because of his gentle and humble nature.

If you could have had any other career what would it have been?

Mmmmm, I’m not sure. At 8 years old a professional footballer. Maybe a gardener, or working with flowers and plants.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I have several, for different reasons. My father was from the Lake District, which is a powerful and beautiful place. Then there is Hyams Beach in New South Wales, Australia, where my eldest daughter took her first steps. My home is always up there and New York.

Who is your ultimate bearded hero and why?

I don’t have one, but there are two types of beard-wearer and they are very different in my option.

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Brock is looking for 60 bearded or moustached men or women for a portrait project in the UK – all age, race and ethnic groups are welcome. Click here for submissions

For more visit: mrelbank.com

All images by Brock Elbank

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