MASKulinity: Masks of Men 1995 - 2000
What makes a Man? And what should he look like in pictures?
As I grope towards a new understanding of what it means to be a Man, I continue to feel the pull of more traditional and less challenging notions of masc[k]ulinity. But the comfort and security of more familiar roles comes at a price: the need for constant vigilance against appearing weak and inadequate.
When subjected to the scrutiny and merciless judgement of the camera (with its potential to expose us as unattractive, awkward and ordinary), the need to control our Persona - the image we project - can drive us to conjure up - and then to hide behind - masks of strength and virility, confidence and authority, culture and sophistication - or the emotional safety in the face of a clown.
By offering my subjects minimal direction in posing ("Stand there…") and none of the usual banter and suggestions ("Okay, now turn your head a little to the left…"), I intentionally deprived them of the implicit assurance that I would intervene to make them look 'good'. Instead, by standing silently beside the camera and watching them, and prolonging (to their obvious consternation) the moment when I released the shutter, I sought to heighten their sense of discomfort and vulnerability in front of the lens - in the hope of provoking them into taking refuge behind their idealised façade. I waited for their chosen mask to crack and slip - and so offer a glimpse of the 'real' person underneath.
Somewhere, in each of these men - and in the ideal 'personas' to which they aspire - I find my fathers and brothers: reflections of the man I want to be - as well as the masks I recognise as my own.