We have been fans of London based photographer Brock Elbank for an age now. He’s best known for creating a striking photo series that focuses on a huge variety of subjects from beards to freckles, fashion to vitiligo, and we’re especially happy to note the recurring theme of flowers in Brock’s portfolio.
He began his career shooting fashion in the UK, and his photographic assignments have taken him around the world for clients such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Dove and more recently Apple, who commisioned him to shoot a series of in-store posters for the new iPhone X. His work is distinctive – take his beard series which was shown at Somerset House – and it’s clear that he has a passion for each of the subjects he chooses. We spoke to Brock about his passion for photography.
How did you get into photography?
I was inspired by the album cover for U2 Joshua tree in 1987 shot by my hero, Anton Corbijn. I was amazed by the photography and something in me just clicked and I knew I wanted to be a photographer. I was fortunate to assist him for a few days in 1996 and it was great to meet a hero who he was a genuinely nice gentleman.
How do you choose your subjects?
It’s always a gut instinct. I think I am always drawn to things that are exceptional or different. I am very inspired by people and by nature; these are parallel channels of inspiration for me. I will see a person on the street or on social media and I will think they are incredible. They look amazing and I’ll decide I want to do a series on that, and it’s literally that simple. I am a bit like a dog with a bone – once I get an idea in my head for a series, I am very driven.
You moved away from fashion and advertising and have featured beards, freckles and vitiligo. How did that happen?
Whilst I was living in Australia, the first series began when I photographed a guy who had a whopping great beard for an Australian skin cancer charity. The project was to raise money and awareness for melanoma and for people to get their skin checked. It all grew and a lot of people got on board and it was exhibited at Somerset House in 2015. It was popular because it wasn’t just about the imagery; there was a message behind it. I had already shot a series on freckles while I was in Sydney and after I shot beards. I wanted to pick that series up and run with it a bit more. My work has taken a different direction from fashion and advertising; I have found that I have just got to meet so many incredible people that have all got amazing stories and journeys. With freckles, we had over six thousand people apply. I look for subjects that stand out – I don’t care where they are from, how old they are, male or female, or what ethnic background. There are so many exceptional people out there.
Flower seems to be a recurring theme for you. What do you like about shooting flowers?
With flowers, it’s not an instant process. It can take days or sometimes weeks as the flower opens and blooms then slowly withers. I did one series on daffodils that dried up. They are an everyday flower but I see beauty in things that other people might not. One of the things I have found with shooting flowers is you never know what is going to be an amazing bloom. Sometimes a flower can be a real slow burner, and then it springs into life. Sometimes they can take days and days to get to a point where you feel happy to photograph it. Shooting flowers is very therapeutic – I find it very relaxing – and the process that I use is very simple. I’ve very bare bones but you can move a bloom half a centimetre and get a very different image.
Flowers have inspired art, literature and design throughout history. Why do you think flowers are so compelling?
I think in human nature we are drawn to beauty, and the world currently isn’t in a great frame of mind. With flowers, there is a connection to joy and happiness. It’s also very seasonal. Working on a series can be very intense so I find working with flowers is a great release. It means I can shoot something different and switch off from my current work.