I am interested in the gendered nature of aesthetics and how the concept of beauty is innately tied to sexual objectification.
To create this series, I cast male models –– living representations of idealized masculinity –– to reveal the terms of gender construction in visual culture. I was curious to see what the result would be, if I photographed men using the unspoken rules that guide how women are conventionally posed in photography and painting. Significantly shorter than the models, I used a ladder to shoot my subjects from above. I directed them to look at me only with a soft expression. Mostly, I asked the models to look away –– to be looked at. I also asked them to hold their arms close to their bodies as if they felt vulnerable. Though the cleanness of the photographic medium conceals the construct I imposed, following this direction was not “natural” for most of them. It took time for the models to inhabit their bodies in this way, taking up the minimum space, covering themselves as if their bodies were immodest if uncovered, continually softening and leaving open their mouths, to signal penetrability.
Through these gestures, I sought to show the harm done to female and feminized bodies throughout art history. I hoped that by deploying the visual tropes of the female body onto a male body, not only would the construct be de-naturalized but also that aspects of masculinity often downplayed for fear of appearing “effeminate” might finally be seen. The tactics of revealing a man’s body, directing his emotions towards receptivity, while posing him in a relatively prone position resulted in a non-normative display of masculinity.
The series poses these questions, does the “feminized” male body have the potential to interrupt heteronormative gazing? As viewers, can we look at aestheticized vulnerability without inserting a gendered, sexual agenda onto it? Does masculinity protect beautiful men from the virgin / whore binary? Finally, what does a rejection of the feminized man reveal about misogyny