Emerging mega-star Michael B. Jordan is the headliner for the December 2018 / January 2019 issue of GQ Magazine after an extremely impressive series of performances in prominent acting roles over the past 24 months, including Black Panther and Creed II. The photoshoot features a lavish array of stylish, modern outfits worn in a wide variety of winter environments under various lighting conditions.
Photographer Awol Erizku, an Ethiopian-American artist who specializes in portrait photography and painting, does a wonderful job using a wide variety of seasonal backdrops and studio lighting techniques to really create a series of images that ooze style and class.
Erizku is a unique artist for many reasons, but he is probably most well known for creating work that asks questions about race within the larger context of art history. While many of the subjects he photographs are of African descent, his images are shot with the intention of documenting his own culture in a way that speaks to everyone.
In the photograph that appears on the cover of the magazine, Jordan is pictured in a winter environment wearing Ralph Lauren clothing and Berluti boots. He is also accompanied by a wolf-dog hybrid in the bottom left of the frame that helps convey a real sense of raw power and rugged masculinity.
The well-lit mountain backdrop and mounds of snow immediately catch the viewer’s eye and help make the overall image highly interesting and immediately engaging. The use of a hawk and the previously mentioned wolf-dog as props in several of the photographs is also quite well done, as both animals really add to the composition and overall uniqueness of the shoot itself.
Erizku also demonstrates his mastery of studio lighting techniques in many of the images that accompany the interview, as he uses a great combination of both extreme close-ups and wider, almost panoramic portraits that are shot under wide variety conditions including both natural and artificial light.
One of the more impressive things about this particular photoshoot is just how well Erizku is able to combine a sense of timeless, natural style with progressive, fresh material that stimulates the imagination and really demonstrates a willingness to try something that hasn’t been played out or done to adnoseum. Rarely used colours are featured prominently in several photographs, including brown, orange, and white – each one compliments a specific outfit or emotion.
Jordan’s acting talents are also on full display, especially in two images shown side by side near the end of the article. The subject and photographer show a ton of chemistry together in two seemingly-simple frames that are wonderfully composed. The hawk spreading its wings as Jordan strikes a contemplative pose on a tree stump works marvelously together, as the contrast between the two moods is interesting and grabs your attention immediately.
(Photo: Awol Erizku/ GQ)
Overall, this series of images is a shining example of just how important it is to take extreme care when dealing with each individual element that makes up a particular idea or theme for a photoshoot as a whole. Erizku masterfully combines several different focal lengths, backdrops, and outfits into a powerful visual essay that really captures the essence of Michael B. Jordan as he continues to work his way to becoming an international star. Not only are the images carefully composed technically, but the underlying theme of quiet confidence and self-belief is also wonderfully communicated.