Art | Van der Postings

Thoroughly original portraits from an intriguing artist

An unforgettable way to commemorate a special event

Thoroughly original portraits from an intriguing artist

Image: © Leonora Hamill

October 06 2010
Lucia van der Post

There comes a time when marking a birthday or anniversary, or even saying “thank you”, requires something truly commemorative. This is when one might think of turning to the notion of the portrait, which these days often costs less than a special piece of jewellery or a significant watch, and yet is infinitely more personal.

Those who want an off-beat, quirky but curiously intriguing portrait might like to look at Leonora Hamill’s photographic work. She’s a fine art photographer who trained at The International Center of Photography in New York and the Royal College of Art in London. One of her best-known projects was a series called Their Favourite Novels, in which she asked each subject to choose their favourite novel and then created a mise en scène evoking the atmosphere of their chosen book.

Her style bears little resemblance to her eminent predecessors, such as Jane Bown or Robert Mapplethorpe. She starts by meeting the subject and finding out as much as possible about them; where they live, their interests etc. Then she puts together a mood board filled with imagery that she believes reflects the identity of the subject. If the subject (or the person commissioning the portrait) likes it, she goes ahead.

This photograph, The Pink Flamingo (pictured), of an engaged couple gives some idea of the way Hamill works. The young Irishman, who loves current affairs and good wine, she has sitting in an old armchair in a field, reading The Economist with a glass of wine at hand, while his fiancée – who’s from the Camargue, and loves riding and parties in equal measure – is lying on a horse in an evening dress. “The stuffed pink flamingo next to the man is a wink to his fiancée’s native Camargue,” Hamill says.

She charges from £2,400, depending on location. Her work is original, spellbinding, not to be forgotten.