A PHOTOGRAPHER from Leamington is making headlines around the world with his collection of beard portraits, currently on show in London.
Dad-of-two Brock Elbank began taking photos of beards after visiting Australia where he met skin cancer charity founder Jimmy Niggles.
Jimmy – who runs charity Beard Season – told Brock about his friend’s fatal battle with a melanoma on his neck, which may have been prevented if he had had a beard.
Wanting to help raise awareness, Brock photographed his friend’s impressive beard and shared the picture online, where it was then re-posted more than half-a-million times in a matter of hours.
The 41-year-old photographer told the Observer: “After seeing how successful the picture of Jimmy was, we advertised for people with beards to have their portrait taken to raise awareness about skin cancer.
“There was such a great reaction with more than 1,300 people applying from all over the world. We chose 60 of them with some coming from as far afield as Brazil and Australia.
“We then contacted Somerset House, who are now running the exhibition until the end of the month. It’s been a phenomenal success.”
Brock, who studied photography at Warwickshire College in Leamington, took a year away from his job as a freelance photographer to complete the portraits.
They included bearded lady Harnaam Kaur, who suffers from polycystic ovaries, actor John Hurt and pictures of Brock’s children – five-year-old Elkie and three-year-old Olive.
But it was his second portrait, of 75-year-old Leamington resident Frank Moon, which proved to be one of his favourites.
Brock – who credits Anton Corbijn, whose work includes the cover shot for U2’s album The Joshua Tree, as his inspiration – said: “It was nice photographing someone from my hometown, and Frank was great and had a really impressive beard.
“Although we had people from the UK, we also had those from different countries who we invited to stay in our home. Myself and my wife Sarah re-named our house the ‘Bed and Beard’. But it was all worth it.
“The exhibition has had a phenomenal reaction. And now we are looking at taking it to America.”
Before they do that, the duo plan to ask A-list celebrities such as Ewan McGregor, Brad Pitt and David Beckham to have their picture taken for the Beard Season charity.
Brock said: “The exhibition has been a great success and it’s wonderful we have been able to raise awareness about skin cancer.”
The show runs until March 29. Visit www.somersethouse.org.uk to find out more.
Actor John Hurt. (s)
Skin cancer charity founder Jimmy Niggles. (s)
Brock’s daughter Elkie. (s)
Photographer Brock Elbank – the man behind lens. (s)