Portraits of Masculinity
Something very distinct about contemporary times contrasted against the 80s and 90s I grew up in, are the ways in which people identify with gender. It was certainly a less complex time; gender identity could simply be boiled down to girls wear pink and boys wear blue, end of discussion. Now as we cross the halfway point of another decade, the traditional templates for gender are being challenged and torn down on a weekly basis. People of all sexual orientations and beliefs create and claim unique identities that present those intangible states of being to the world visually. It all makes for very interesting people watching to say the least; you're required to look a little longer, with more empathy and consideration, all while not being rude and staring. The arena where most of the conversation starts about the contrast of masculinity and femininity is often centered around clothing, which sparked an idea about how to explore not only societal ideas of masculinity but my own as well. The most fun projects are often the ones your actually a bit ignorant about.
A couple weeks ago, I knew I wanted to start shooting portraits again, possibly something fashionable, definitely with men, but what would be the point? I'm all about shooting stuff just because it's pretty, but not so much these days. I couldn't resist the natural urge to do something that would require a bit of thought. So to at least satisfy the ideas of fashion and men, I called one of the most stylish dudes I know, Mike Flower aka Mike Flo, internationally known emcee, dj, style maven and teeth flasher. I basically explained to him, I wanted to do a shoot, not sure what for, but probably something around masculinity. Done deal, we got the shoot done in 20 minutes.
The time leading up to and away from the shoot are where thought comes into play. To be honest and I think most photographers will say the same, I don't alway know what my photos will mean and what all the subtext will communicate. Alot of that stuff gets assigned and decided on after the fact. What I came to understand on the surface after these "sketches" of sorts is that this series would give me a chance to have conversations with my collaborators about something we honestly don't talk about much as adults. A lot of the masculine identity we carve out is done in private, done while we are growing up and then we just kind of give it to the world when we are done tinkering with it. These photos may possibly be a presentation of something we all have been crafting for years and are still fine tuning. I have no idea where this will go exactly, but as my friends know, I have a habit of juggling a few projects at once and letting them influence each other along the way. If nothing else I think this will be an interesting exercise!