Beards have been a growing trend over the past few years and now facial fuzz has its own exhibition at Somerset House, London. Photographer Brock Elbank began the series as a charity project to raise awareness about skin cancer but was later commissioned by the gallery to snap a dozen more bristling beards.
Why did you decide to photograph beards?
My good friend Miles Better grew one about 10 years ago and I shot a few here and there, before meeting Jimmy Niggles who founded BeardSeason.com, a melanoma charity. That’s why I came up with #Project60 to assist in raising awareness about skin cancer. The portraits are actually part of a pack of picture playing cards, with a #LuckyCard to get people to get #SkinChecks.
Beards are often associated with the hipster subculture. Do you find the term ‘hipster’ derogatory at all?
I’m rather tired of the hipster tag; I simply have chosen to document interesting characters, who sport a beard. Obviously several in the series are hipsters, but the series is far from hipsterdriven.
Sikh woman Harnaam Kaur, who has polycystic ovary syndrome (causing thick hair to grow on her face), is also in the exhibition. Was she at all concerned about being chastized by some members of the public?
Personally, I think having Harnaam’s inclusion is one of the great successes of the series. I’d like to think that she’s a lot stronger than to be worried about the public perception, particularly as she decided to show her beard like this. It’s both an empowering and inspiring expression of individuality.
Facial hair has been having more than a moment for a while now, so do you think we’ve hit peak beard and what is the trend’s continuing appeal?
No, I don’t think we have hit peak beard yet; they’re still fashionable and they look strong and manly, which I think is a big part of their appeal.