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All That Man Is - Fashion and Masculinity Now
I Bianchi © Clara Vannucci

All That Man Is - Fashion and Masculinity Now

Photo VOGUE Festival 2018

Andrea Robbins & Max Becher » Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm » Sarah Bahbah » Elinor Carucci » Michal Chelbin » Scarlett Coten » Bex Day » Brian Finke » Estelle Hanania » Andras Ladocsi » Thomas Lohr » Greg Miller » Kristin-Lee Moolman » Mark Peckmezian » Ryan Pfluger » Paolo Roversi » Stefan Ruiz » Matthew Stone » Alex Telfer » Clara Vannucci  » Kyle Weeks »

Exhibition: – 18 Nov 2018

BASE Milano

via bergognone 34
20144 Milano

+39 02-


Tue 11-22, Wed-Fri 11-20, Sat 11-22

We are now all too familiar with the power of representation and visibility, and fashion photography is one of the most influential and ubiquitous media there is. Fashion and politics are getting more and more intertwined and the push for diversity has finally started to bear mainstream results. Moreover, fashion is famously an identity playground, where different roles are played out and tweaked. The exhibition for the 3rd edition of the Photo Vogue Festival titled “All That Man Is – Fashion and Masculinity Now” seeks to explore and expand on the concept of masculinity by showing how contemporary fashion and art photographers are addressing the subject. The aim is to present a broad spectrum of how manhood is portrayed and, hopefully, to spark a conversation about it.

We decided to start by asking the photographers on display the same question we asked ourselves in the first issue of the new L’Uomo Vogue magazine: “In the  Trump and #MeToo movement era set against a new sense of awareness with regard to self-representation and gender fluidity, masculinity is a concept that is being redefined. At present, men have more options in terms of masculine role models than ever before, yet much still needs to be done to free them from stereotyped representations of race, manliness and identity. So what does it mean to be a man today?

So what does it mean to be a man today?
Here are the answers:

Sarah Bahbah: «I don’t have first-hand experience in what it means to be a “man” today, so I answer from my interaction with these ideas. Sure, it must be a confusing time to be a man today but the confusion does not come from a place of disadvantage or oppression. The confusion comes from a deserving need for change, a change that the patriarchy has intentionally ignored. What we need is society to acknowledge that gender and its inequality is constructed and not natural. “To be a man today” should mean only to be engaged in actions that lead towards a gender equal and inclusive society. No other traits should prescribed and forced. How is it possible that our behaviour and characteristics are defined by the way we look, or that only 2 recognised categories can encapsulate the multiplicity of humans? These restrictions of “what it means to be a …” reduce the complexity, expression, and uniqueness of each human being. Language like “don’t be a pussy” or “grow some balls” reduces us to our physicality, but we are more than just our sex. The heart of gender equality encourages and empowers people to inhabit their bodies on their own terms. Men need to understand that this empowerment is inclusive of them as well, that their privileges are constructs stifling true freedom. Ideas of masculinity work like a prison, confining you to boundaries that obscure the reality that men can be soft, females can be strong, and people can be just human.»

@Blawko22: «We should probably start by not treating people like they’re not people. Feel like we gotta all realize that that’s the level we’re building from.»

Arielle Bobb-Willis: «A man today is someone who recognizes the stereotypes but does not let that define who they are. It’s about educating yourself about your privileges and using them to fight against  discrimination in every form. That being said I wouldn’t say there is one answer to what it means to be a man. Being a good person is important in our present world and to me that does not mean benefiting off of the oppression and prejudice of others.»

Olgaç Bozalp: «For generations, men have felt they had to conceal and compensate for their fragility by designating a domineering facade. As we transition towards a progressive moment of equality for all, I think that being a man today is about pursuing balance. We’re shifting our focus from trying to prove our self-worth within the archetypal context to exploring and exposing our multifarious identities.»

Micaiah Carter: «I believe being a man today is being emotionally intelligent and able to feel empathy and emotions without feeling or looked at as feminine or less than a man.»

Elinor Carucci: «Being a man today is in a way much like what it is to be a woman: confusing, challenging, liberating yet scary. Filled with opportunities and new explorations but also with contradictions and contrasts that co-exist within us, sometimes colliding.»

Michal Chelbin: «It’s very difficult to answer as I am a woman, also I don’t want to do to men what was done to women in the past, which means to think for them or to phrase for them what they actually feel. From talking to men I think that being a man today partially means feeling like a woman, which means being under the observant eye of the opposite sex.»

Scarlett Coten: «That is the question I ask by inviting men to pose for me and surrender to my female gaze. A photographic experience that motivates (encourages?) emotional responses and takes part, perhaps also, in their fulfilment in terms of identity.»

Bex Day: «I think rather than describing dissemblance of gender, we should focus solely on distinguishing the separateness. There should be no discrepancy; man or woman, we should be treated with the same mutual respect and dignity. We are all the same.»

Richard Dowker: «Something I do admire in a ‘man’ today is someone who is brave enough to speak out, even if it puts them in a vulnerable position. Being a white gay cisgender male, I’ve had a fortunate upbringing in an accepting society – although a common trait within the gay community I’ve struggled with is my mental health. This stemming from growing up suppressing gay thoughts, the self-torment of ‘coming out’ to problematic and abusive relationships that have impacted and shaped my life. To grow up in a generation seeing artists such as Kevin Abstract being openly gay in a ‘homophobic space’ of the hip hop community and Olly Alexander another openly gay musician who has spoken about his mental health in depth. Tackling the outdated ‘boys don’t cry’ stigma, that men talking about their emotions makes them weak and that being sensitive is stereotypically a feminine attribute. It’s heart-warming to know that future gay generations may not have to struggle with their inner-turmoil of coming out, as well as men of any spectrum being open about their mental health. It’s okay to not be okay, but we need to be able to talk about our feelings – in denying these stigmas we’ll finally see movement away from narrow minded, toxic masculinity and move towards ‘a man’ that’s suited to these times.»

Riccardo Dubitante: «As a gay man I still struggle to find a concept of masculinity in which I feel I fit in. I feel that in the last 50 years women have rebelled against outdated femininity models and have claimed their independence from them – even if it’s still an ongoing battle. Men, on the other hand, have not yet managed to get rid of dogmas and theories on masculinity that end up suffocating individuality – rules are still determined following a chauvinistic phallocentric religion.  I see no reason not to embrace differences and deviation from an idea of masculinity that has managed to create conflicts and frustrations for centuries, for both the perpetrators and the oppressed. Maybe the solution to the systemic crisis we are going through is this: kill patriarchy, get rid of the pre-existing scheme and embrace a new, more fluid identity, one that is less dictated by paradigms and conventions. Write your own rules and define a new model of masculinity that works for you.»

Charlie Engman: «Being a man today means less and less without context.»

Max Farago: «I have thought a lot about this question and feel like it is a testament to your exhibition that I have a very hard time answering it. It can be looked at and dissected from so many different angles, both personal and public, that I find myself at a bit of a dead end when trying to contribute to the dialog. I think that breaking down gender, racial, religious and economic barriers results in a common sense of humanity and decency. It is not about what it is to be a man today but about how to be a fundamentally good person. The same rules apply to everyone.»

Brian Finke: «I think being a man today is about being who you are, whoever that may be. There’s an accepted vulnerability, which is wonderful. That’s what this photo depicts: it’s a straightforward portrait of a young man, who is handsome yet imperfect. He’s part of a group, but remains an individual. By letting himself be captured in an active, unposed moment he appears both in control and vulnerable to our interpretation/ gaze.»

Travis Gumbs: «It feels like we are at a crossroads – one road leads to the historically dominant role of men that is rooted in misogyny. The other road leads to a more complex journey – one that asks men to consider their feelings in the context of humanity, to consider history and the implications of our actions, and to understand that our sex/gender role is just a small part of our experience as humans. The second route requires an unflinching dedication to growth and evolution, and to embracing the duality of masculine and feminine energy as truth rather than a concept.»

Mark Hartman: «Being a man is the same as it has been forever: a man accepts what is and makes his own way, lives with compassion, integrity, strength and does his best to inspire hope. Machoness does not define a man, his heart does.»

Florian Joahn and Jean-Paul Paula: «As a man you have to look into Brett Kavanaugh’s face and understand that he is closer to you as you want to admit. All cis men profit from a system in which gender complacency gets rewarded and individuality becomes a weakness. Masculinity is a long established dictatorship held in place by cis male in order to protect their superiority above any other gender identity. Similar to the fall of the Third Reich we need to dismantle the system from the top, tear down the monuments and re-educate the population.»

András Ladocsi: «The biggest challenge for a Central European man – well at least for me –  is to overcome (or let’s say, conquer) all the stereotypes and prejudices, that are made of us and for us. Because these prefabricated roles make the individual think of the self in narrow, uncomfortable, non-fitting categories. Most of these well circumscribed divisions fit nobody and prevent men from expressing themselves freely and even from becoming what they are meant to be in a wider horizon. To be a man is to take over yourself, your life, and make it the most fitting possible while making something of value out of it.»

Alexandra Leese: «Being a man today is about allowing yourself to feel and express emotions without being afraid, and to recognise that the human condition is universal.»

Thomas Lohr: «I thought about what it means to me and if anything changed since the debate started but to be honest nothing really changed how I or most of my friends see the role of a man today. That has of course to do with the friends I surround myself with and the people I interact with on a daily basis. I do think the #MeToo movement and debate was way overdue and in my opinion this can just be a starting point. A lot has still to change in the way society defines men but also women.»

Dorian Ulises López Macías: «Masculinity today is one or several, being a man remains a privilege or begins to be a burden. There is no single and hegemonic model. The internet, the reggaeton and the growing narco culture clearly begin to draw the silhouette of the new Mexican man. Now he can dye his hair, draw his eyebrows but also carry a weapon. Men today are, or can be, ‘lumbersexuals’, ‘androgynous’, ‘normcore’ and ‘hipsters’. Or none of these.»

Rosie Matheson: «To be a man today is multi-faceted. The idea of masculinity and manliness pressured by society is rapidly changing and decreasing and I feel that the traditional gender identity is really being challenged. From shooting my photo series ‘Boys’ and meeting all types of young males, it really showed me that to be a man today is about being confident in yourself, in whatever you are and whatever you do. It’s ok to dress, walk and talk however you like. Of course not everyone is accepting and it’s still not a free world but the movement is really positive towards what masculinity is today and encouraging men to show more emotion, have a softer side and be completely themselves rather than having to live up to an outdated stereotype.»

Greg Miller: «We often associate masculinity with strength and power. In this photograph Mario is, on one hand, a specimen of physical perfection, yet seeing him in the shower we are mindful of his vulnerability. He appears to be almost melting. This picture hinges on this dichotomy between strength and vulnerability. I was a child of the 70’s so I grew up with Free to Be You and Me, the book and album created by actress Marlo Thomas that taught children, boy and girls, that you can be anything. I listened as the US football player Rosie Grier sang to me that it was “Alright to Cry”. I am grateful I learned this because now, as a 50 year old man, I am a husband and a father to two daughters where my finest moments have not been when I am the strong man in the room, but when I am listening and being present. It is the closest I come to melting.»

Jamie Morgan: «The best man in me would be strong and kind and support the people around me, in every way, emotional, practical and spiritual. Supporting my friends, supporting my wife on her journey, supporting my child who needs so much attention and guidance. Also trying to be a positive force in the world and be part of the changes that we need to make as a society, hopefully leading by example. I often fail miserably but the best man in me is strong enough to show my weakness,  honest enough to show my vulnerability, and caring enough to take action! Throughout my life and work I have always championed true diversity and gender fluidity, that is just normal behaviour to me, anyone who doesn’t is suspect. Anyway I really think that it’s not about being a man or a woman, but more about the energy of masculinity and femininity that we all have within us in varying degrees. I love the feminine energy in everybody, including myself, but sometimes the masculine energy is really needed. It can move mountains and hold up rivers that need be crossed!»

Matthew Morrocco: «To be a man today means to aspire to the destruction of “man” as a category. To place a binary on gender does nothing but divide people, placing particular roles on one group or another. In the structure that I envision being a “man” will not exist. There will just be people with biological differences each requiring their own unique and yet equal level of care.»

Ricardo Nagaoka: «To be a man today is to consistently re-examine ourselves, to both question our position in society and to embrace a freedom from what was historically considered to “be a man”. For many of us, this mean learning how to be emotional, vulnerable and understanding beyond what our gender roles dictated in the past.»

Zee Nunes: «There were many preconceptions around the concept of masculinity. Associated with greed, sex and power and in a world that mental and physical strength could not be broken. The man of today is more interested in being vulnerable, reliable and dependable.»

Studio Prokopiou: «To be a man today means challenging what it meant in the mainstream in the past.  In the queer community we have always understood the dichotomies inherent in gender roles – the implication of ‘performance’ was always self-evident. Today, a man can be feminine without negating his masculinity, and importantly, without having to mitigate, justify or explain.»

Andrea Robbins and Max Becher: «The cowboy, one of America’s most enduring and masculine cultural icons, is identified with the white gunslinger in the popular imagination. However, at the height of the nineteenth century over one-third of cowboys were African American. Black cowboy culture has continued to thrive across the United States yet remains largely unknown to the general public. Black cowboys (and cowgirls) participate in national rodeos, trail rides, and reunions that celebrate a proud history and reinforce family ties. Fashions include styles made famous in westerns, but also incorporate elements of soul and hip hop that are constantly evolving. Black riding clubs host annual trail rides in which horseback riders and horse-drawn wagons solicit attention, snaking through country roads and along busy city streets. But the tenacity of this image is negated as novelty because it conflicts with pervasive negative stereotypes of the Black American male. Many could otherwise be mistaken for the famous Marlborough man, if not for this stereotype which causes them to be seen and then unseen. In this case the power of change is in the eyes of the spectator.»

Paolo Roversi: «In the words of Hamlet, today as ever, ‘What a piece of work is man!’»

Scandebergs: «Being a man today means being brave enough to fight the standardised and stereotyped gender ideals imposed by our society about what’s masculine or feminine. It means being able to embrace both without the fear of losing their own manhood. Let’s hope the idea of masculinity we still perceive today in this still strongly male-driven society will just be remembered as something mythological (as in “so far from reality that it might never have happened”) in the near future.»

Casper Sejersen: «Speaking for myself: as a father, husband, lover, worker, artist, friend, neighbour: the world around me expects me to behave in  certain ways as a man. I refuse to do that, I have decided to become my own role model. I have decided that I don’t care about expectations on my masculine side. I use different feelings and emotions for different situations. Sometimes I enjoy to dress up as a stereotyped masculine persona, sometimes not – but anyway that’s only the outside. I try to embrace all my different feelings and ways to behave. I don’t see “feminine/masculine emotions” as related to the gender, but as sides of yourself you can use in different situations. When my daughter hurts her knee badly, I use both feminine and masculine sides of my personality: I use them following my intuition. I love that all the different genders, races, religions, ages have their own tone of voice, sometimes I even like certain types of stereotypes, as long as we all behave with respect for all human beings. It’s not about being a man, it’s about being human…»

Luke Smithers: «I grew up in Texas, where manhood equates to a kind of impenetrable individualism, a refusal to be moved and awed. I can count the number of times I’ve seen my dad cry on one hand. And so, by 10, I’d tempered my urge to skip, to burst into song. A gulf widened between the world and me, for this meant then that my dreams and fantasies were to remain confined to my mind, were not to actualize themselves in the real world for fear that other boys would deny me. I fell back behind my eyes, into a faraway, inward place I knew as safe. It was only in seeing those deep, more vulnerable parts of my dad boil over that I realized he too longed for a language to articulate his innermost places. I witnessed the havoc that suppressing those parts wrought. What’s at stake when this faux masculinity now dominates on a global scale? The most radical act today is for a man to use words beautifully, that originate from the most human and lyrical of places: his heart. Let it be known: I am permeable & I am fiercely tender.»

Matthew Stone, Matthew Josephs and Michael-John Harper:The image was a collaborative effort and these are the words of Michael-John Harper (Movement director & model) «What if we started speaking more in terms of energy than in sexuality? Maybe that means we could go beyond being male and beyond being female. We are more than our sexuality.» 

Alex Telfer: «So much damage has been done to the male image in recent times that I feel that extra effort is required to represent it in the right way. Thankfully, poor attitudes and behaviour are now out in the open where they should be for all to see.»

Clara Vannucci: «Fortunately being a macho is no longer the only model for young men. What a feast for the eyes it is, however, to see pure macho power in action in testosteronic sports such as the medieval Calcio Storico in Florence!»

Kyle Weeks: «Masculinity alludes to qualities traditionally associated with men. To me masculinity in the current social landscape means taking a responsibility to help broaden our understanding of what these qualities may be. It means having a sense of self-respect so that you may respect others as well as the spaces they occupy. It has nothing to do with aesthetics but everything to do with your actions and how they affect others.»

Leslie Zhang: «To me, a man is like a piece of sea sponge—perhaps the first animal on earth—hard on the outside and soft on the inside.»

Artists include: David Abrahams | Marili Andre | Sarah Bahbah | @Blawko22 | Blommers / Schumm | Arielle Bobb-Willis | Olgaç Bozalp | Pierre-Ange Carlotti | Micaiah Carter | Elinor Carucci | Michal Chelbin | Scarlett Coten | Ana Cuba | Bex Day | Richard Dowker | Riccardo Dubitante, Johnny Dufort | Charlie Engman | Max Farago | Brian Finke | Travis Gumbs | Estelle Hanania | Mark Hartman | Florian Joahn and Jean-Paul Paula | Tom Johnson | András Ladocsi | Alexandra Leese | Thomas Lohr | Dorian Ulises López Macías | Molly Matalon | Rosie Matheson | Greg Miller | Kristin-Lee Moolman | Jamie Morgan | Matthew Morrocco | Ricardo Nagaoka | Zee Nunes | Ruth Ossai | Clément Pascal | Mark Peckmezian | Ryan Pfluger | Studio Prokopiou | Andrea Robbins and Max Becher | Robi Rodriguez | Paolo Roversi | Stefan Ruiz | Scandebergs | Casper Sejersen | Luke Smithers | Andrea Spotorno | Matthew Stone, Matthew Josephs and Michael-John Harper | Alex Telfer | Ben Toms | Clara Vannucci | Kyle Weeks | Leslie Zhang