In 2012, photographer Brock Elbank was playing in a weekend-league football match in Sydney when a spectator caught his eye. It was his teammate’s son, Eddie, 10 at the time, with “an incredible face full of freckles, like I’d never seen before,” he says. (This was hardly the first time Elbank had found himself drawn to a quirky, distinctive facial feature; he’s also shot scores of bewhiskered men for his #Beardinstallation.) With permission from Eddie’s father, Elbank had the young lad sit for a portrait, and the session touched off what he calls an obsession with freckles.
He has since shot more than 90 portraits for his new #Freckles series, from women whose shoulders and cheeks are just dusted with dots to a nose-pierced gentleman with freckles traipsing over his eyelids, across his lips, and everywhere in-between. His subjects, who hail from Britain, Cambodia, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Kuwait, Japan, the U.S., and more countries, come in all ages, sizes, and ethnicities, with one thing in common.
Make that a few thousand things. Recent coverage of #Freckles made the project go viral, and Elbank has been inundated with messages from freckled folks the world over — more than 1,100 emails in the past week alone, not to mention countless messages on Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.
While the series has garnered much support (“Stunning!”; “Makes me wish I had even more freckles!”; “As I look through your pictures, I am reminded of my mom saying my freckles are angel kisses. I feel that way when I look at the people you photograph.”), Elbank says there is a darker side to the collection. “99% of these individuals have all suffered some sort of teasing, bullying, or verbal abuse,” Elbank, now U.K.-based, says. “People can be so narrow-minded and cruel. Every one of us is the same. Just because some are visually different shouldn’t mean they get a rough time at school and from society.”
See some of the breathtaking photos in my Refinery29.com slideshow, here.