Interviews, Photobooks

Hand Jobs: The Curious World of Hand Modelling

All images © Oli Kellett and Alex Holder, courtesy Hoxton Mini Press

Commercial photographer Oli Kellett and Alex Holder have partnered up on a photobook celebrating some very recognizable hands, newly published by Hoxton Mini Press.

“I don’t even like bananas,” laughs commercial photographer Oli Kellett. “I hate them, hate the smell of them.”

On the table in front, lies a small yet character-full photobook. Printed by the Hoxton Mini Press, the book is bound in a luminous yellow, appearing even brighter as it reflects the sunlight coming through the café window. The cover photograph on shows a pair of tanned, manly hands, delicately peeling a banana. Kellett is visibly amused at the title, Hand Jobs: Life as a Hand Model.

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Three years ago, he and his ex professional partner and friend, Alex Holder, were working on an advertising job and spotted a woman sitting on the sidelines of the shoot, reading a book and wearing a pair of puffy thick gloves. She has been there for seven days, waiting for the moment where she would be called into the spotlight, so that her un-blemished, modeling hands could be filmed turning the page of a book.

The duo was intrigued and inspired, and began working on a project that would seek out the faces that lie behind the hands.

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“Odd bunch,” says Kellett. “And an odd job as well. Most people don’t even know that it exists but you see hands all the time. It’s fascinating really.

“I was ready a review about a hairdryer online the other day, and one of the hand models posted on Instagram: ‘A glamorous model drying her hair: that’s my hand’.”

Kellett, who has a background in advertising before becoming a full-time photographer, explains that in the commercials we see, whether in print or on screen, the over-moisturised hands with immaculate manicures showcasing the products rarely belong to the actor or celebrity.

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LOWRES_HMP_OliKellett_HandJobs_Bernie1“One of the guys in there says he is the ‘hand double’ of Ashley Cole,” says Kellett. “Another says he always gets all the power tool jobs because his hands seem to suit the machines.”

With the help of hand-modelling agency, Hired Hands, to seek out their subjects, Kellett and Holder began to shoot headshots of the models, which would later be placed alongside images of their hands graciously peeling a banana in new and innovative ways. Unused to having the lens pointing at their faces, this task at times proved problematic.

“Some of them were quite uncomfortable,” says Kellett. “The whole process was quite tricky because they’re very good at holding their hands still for a long time but they find it quite hard to pose.”

Each portrait is shot against a background of a pastel gradient, with soft and forgiving lighting. The photographs are divided with quotes from the models, pondering their unusual profession. Occasionally, the models have an additional piece of fashion to their hand job. One pair sports some black, laced gloves.

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“She is a hand celebrity,” says Kellett. “She was called the hand super-model and she’s also a presenter on a shopping channel. The gloves were her choice.”

“It’s funny because I don’t shoot anything else like this. I don’t do any close up work at all. I don’t do any still life, or bananas.

“I don’t think I look at hands any differently. I still feel the same about hands. They’re just hands.”

Hand Jobs: Life as a Hand Model by Oli Kellett and Alex Holder, is published by Hoxton Mini Press. Buy the book here , RRP £12.95 .