Friday 24 February 2012

Chris Levine’s Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

One of the most inventive and important photographers working today is Chris Levine. Born in 1972 in Canada, his work is internationally acclaimed for both its human insight and its astonishing intimacy.

During 2004, Chris Levine was commissioned to make a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In the course of one day, there were a few minutes of rest and repose. During those moments, he produced an unforgettable image of the Queen with her eyes closed. This image must rank as one of the most memorable images ever made of the world’s most famous woman.

To access Chris’s work refer to his website:

He recounted for The Guardian in 2009, the situation that led to his portrait of Her Majesty -

Here are Chris’s comments from The Guardian:
“I was commissioned to make a holographic portrait of the Queen in 2004, as part of Jersey's celebrations of its 800-year-old relationship with the monarchy. She was tickled by the idea of having a hologram done. I assumed there would be layers of bureaucracy when it came to telling her what to do — but the truth is, if she wants to be involved, it goes straight on to her desk. She is in control, there's no question about that.

I also assumed there would be committees dealing with what had to be put into the image: props, or iconography, or costumes. But they asked me what I wanted her to wear, so I got the opportunity to style the Queen. I looked at the crown jewels, and picked out a clean, simple crown with a cross. It was quite a thrilling moment when she walked in the door, wearing exactly what I'd asked her to.

During the shoot, there was a lot of bright light, noise, and each exposure took eight seconds, which is a long time to have to sit still. I wanted the Queen to feel peaceful, so I asked her to rest between shots; this was a moment of stillness that just happened.

Meditation was having a profound impact on my life at the time. I told her about how I'd go off on 10-day silent retreats, and she was very interested. I timed the exposures around her breathing – it seemed a way of tuning into her. Later, this image really stood out – it has such an aura about it, a power.

The challenge was to make an image that was modern, and to convey the Queen's relationship with the new millennium. It didn't have to be an oil painting or a conventional photograph. Why not have her eyes shut? We all close our eyes: this picture takes us into the Queen's mind, her inner realm.”

At Chris’s website you can see him discussing his great portrait:

Image copyright to Chris Levine.
With sincere thanks to the artist.

1 comment:

Jonty said...

This image has to rank as one of the first true 21C icons. We had the good fortune to see his portraits of the singer Grace Jones whilst in London. This man is a creative genius. I saw things he did with light that were simply magic. Bring him to NZ!!!