Handsome Dead Men

  • Benji Roebuck

Handsome Dead Men is an ongoing self-initiated research project that uses found imagery to explore a range of interconnected themes. Portrait photography from digital archives is used as a starting point to explore history, sociology, nature, art and more – not through the well-known figures of history but through images of lesser-known men. All the men lived different lives, with individual vocations and experiences and whether they were rich or poor, well-known in their time or lived in obscurity, there are two characteristics that they have in common: they are all dead and they are all handsome. Admittedly, handsome is a subjective term but I think it’s clear that each portrait is striking and enigmatic in its own way. By looking beyond the superficial, the photographs allow us to explore the time and place in which its subject lived, why their photograph was taken and in what context it is kept today. I’ve researched and written about ten men, with five developed and presented online so far. Each essay is paired with additional imagery that helps to explore the intersection between one of Finland’s greatest artists and the Kalevala, the country’s folkloric national epic; a petty criminal from the north east of England and maritime knitwear; an unknown soldier and the Gallipoli campaign; a celebrated fruit grower and the English gardening tradition; and an uncredited model helping to illustrate the adventures of an American explorer in Norway. Visit https://handsomedeadmen.com/ to read all the stories published so far.