A passion for diversity
Brock Elbank believes that beneath the surface, everybody lives with some level of insecurity about their looks. But for many of his portrait subjects, their striking looks make them stand out, whether they like it or not. Through his unique photo projects, Brock is on a mission to celebrate their diversity and encourage acceptance in the process.
I don’t think you can take a good portrait of someone in a controlled environment without having some knowledge of that person’s character. When I do photograph people, speaking with them beforehand has to be part of the process. I’m genuinely interested in what people have to say.
London-based British photographer Brock Elbank has developed an international reputation for capturing stunning portraits of some of the most beautifully unique individuals on the planet. From immensely bearded men, to individuals distinctly patterned with the skin condition vitiligo, Brock has turned his camera to subjects typically avoided or fetishised by mass media and advertising. Mr Elbank, as he’s known on his popular Instagram account, believes that every person has a story to tell, and while each story may be similar, it’s the diversity of individuals that he finds himself feeling passionate about.
“This phenomenal-looking woman from London walks into my studio. She has a big red afro, honey brown eyes and light skin covered in freckles,” Brock recalls of one of his early subjects for the Freckles Project.
Before a single frame was captured, the pair talked extensively - photographer and subject - about how it was for her growing up. The woman explained to Brock that her youth had been extremely difficult; she was bullied for standing out and struggled with that. After the shoot, the lady said it would be amazing to be part of an exhibition that would see her picture shared in rooms full of people that are like her.
Eva Khyne Sam
Bashir Aziz Cu
“That shoot was quite early on in the Freckles Series and it struck a chord with me. I think everybody I’ve photographed, not so much the people with freckles, but certainly the people with vitiligo, is that because they stand out and are unique looking, people can be cruel and ignorant,” Brock revealed.
If you’ve got good equipment, you’re halfway there. It doesn’t mean you know how to use it, you still need to know lighting. But the quality, clarity and sharpness is due to the camera. The files are incredible.
In speaking with his subjects, Brock has been disheartened to learn that they have all in someway suffered for standing out: “Everyone I’ve photographed has told me that they’ve received verbal abuse, people passing unsavory comments or staring at them, which is very disappointing.”
While some may use his subjects’ differences as a poor excuse to behave unkindly, Brock finds himself drawn towards unique individuals and sees beauty in diversity. When he sets out to tackle a photographic project, it’s because he’s genuinely interested in the individuality of his subjects.
Amber Jean Rowan
“The more research I do on one of these subjects, the more amazing people I find, people who you don’t see from day to day,” Brock explains. “What we try to achieve with each of these projects, commonly, is to raise some awareness. I want people to see a condition or a unique look in a positive and more beautiful way. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage people to be more accepting. With all of my work, I come from an honest place. I’ve always been drawn to incredible and unique looking human beings.”
Mikey A. Hamer
Using social media to help search for subjects, Brock is inundated with thousands of responses, largely positive. The interesting thing is that while many of the contacts he receives are about being photographed, a large number of people message Brock to simply say thank him for showcasing people who don’t fit any stereotypical ideals of beauty.
Bashir Aziz Cu
While living in Sydney, Australia, Brock was the first photographer in the country to get his hands on the Hasselblad H4D-60 and has shot every one of his portraits with that camera ever since. Speaking of his love for the Hasselblad look, Brock said, “If you’ve got good equipment, you’re halfway there. It doesn’t mean you know how to use it, you still need to know lighting. But the quality, clarity and sharpness is due to the camera. The files are incredible.” See more of Brock's work here.