Berlin! Save the date for another stunning exhibition presented by Curated by GIRLS: New Masculinity. In an effort to expose the softness of this world, Curated by GIRLS is excited to present “New Masculinity” exhibition at Blender Studio, in association with prod.exe, on November 11 & 12, 2017. The IRL show will feature the works of 4 Artists, who found each other on Instagram and teamed up to drive attention to a new and different portrayal of masculinity. We had a chat with the artists: Annika Weertz (Germany), Joseph Barrett (England), Liam Warton (Sweden) and Phoebe Jane Barrett (England/ Germany) asking the question: What is the New Masculinity? Read it below! Or go to the Facebook EVENT.
“In a very sensitive time, where many women are still victims of violence from men, it is important to show that men are not all macho beasts craving for power. Many men have a very strong feminine side. We want to celebrate the beauty and evolution of masculinity.” says LAETITIA DUVEAU – Curated By GIRLS
Joseph Barrett is a photographer based and working in London. In his last photographic project he focused on the issues around postmodern masculinity.
KB: It seems like ‘eye contact’ is pretty important in your work, but you also shoot a lot of “headless” body parts. How do you decide which strategy to use when you start a project?
JB: I wouldn’t say I necessarily go into a shoot, like the ‘Male Gaze’ series with a particular strategy. When shooting I would look for distinctive characteristics in each person to focus on. I felt like eye contact was important for this project, since it expresses a feeling rather than being neutrally descriptive. When my work that is not so identity driven then it is more about the feeling of the image, therefore making the person recognisable is no longer important.
KB: I read in your statement that “in today’s society the definition of masculinity is changing”. What do you mean by that? What change have you noticed?
JB: I think that in our society, the social attitudes towards sexuality and gender stereotypes have been changing for the better, and that ‘masculinity’ and it’s definition, is becoming much more fluid and diverse, it’s more actively accepted than it has ever been.
KB: ‘Male Gaze’- What kind of emotion are you trying to express through the model’s gaze?
JB: In my ‘male gaze’ series I wanted to let any emotion in the photos come naturally. I was aiming for an intimate portrait with a true representation of the subject. When shooting for the series, I would intentionally give very loose directions, allowing the subject to self-direct.
KB: You mentioned you wanted the photos from this series to “stand on it’s own, un-interrupted by your own gender and preferences”. What’s the reason you decided to focus only on ‘male’ gaze?
JB: When a man photographs a woman we tend to label it as ‘The male gaze’, and vice versa when it’s a woman photographing a man. Often the photographer’s sexual preference and perceptions of the other gender is somewhat visible in the images, intentional or not. I just wanted to see how the viewers would perceive a portrait series where a man photographed other men, with no potential personal interest in the subjects. I hoped by doing so it conveyed a true meaning of postmodern masculinity.
Liam Warton (b. 1990) lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. Liam focuses his camera on things that affect him personally and mostly photographs family and friends. His work aims to question norm critique, identity and masculinity.
KB: How would you define “New Masculinity”?
LW: Masculinity and femininity can be viewed as social constructions, ways of categorising and measuring the behaviors of men and women. The stereotypical portrayal of masculinity (hegemonic masculinity) is one of dominance, strength and superiority. For me, “new masculinity” has to do with gender equality and creating a more open, fluid and honest measure of what it means to be a man, woman or non-binary. For example, traditional masculinity discourages men to show a full range of emotions such as vulnerability, fear, hurt or despair. This has resulted in fewer men openly speaking about their problems and fewer men asking for psychological help as they are afraid of showing these emotions. And for those who deviate from this mold they are often discriminated against, labelled as “pussies”, “fags”, “needing to man up” or “grow a pair”. “New masculinity” is about questioning and altering our attitudes and expectations about how we perceive all genders, which should ideally lead to less discrimination and less sexism in society.
KB: Do you only focus on analogue photography or also digital? Why is the reason, and what difference does it make for you?
LW: I shoot the majority of my work on film, however I do have digital cameras and there are benefits and negatives to both formats.
Why analogue? For me it is ultimately about the photographic process and the hands-on approach that inspires me the most. I love the chemical magic of film, capturing something in reality and then seeing it later unravel before my eyes in the darkroom. The delayed gratification, of being focused in the moment rather than looking at a thousand photos constantly on the back of your screen. The sheer joy I get from testing different expired films and different ways of developing the negatives. The end result when shooting analogue is also more in line with what I strive to express through my photography.
KB: You capture both male and female models from the works we could see via Instagram. Have you considered to express Modern Masculinity through female models?
LW: As said previously said, masculinity is a social construction and not solely tied to ones sex. Modern masculinity can therefore be expressed through the use of models that are both male or female (or have other preferred pronouns). I have the same approach when photographing all my subjects regardless of their sex. I try not contribute to the male gaze by strengthening already ingrained stereotypes, but rather portray both men and women in the same manner. That said, I do not intentionally try to express modern masculinity through the use of female models, hence I do not see it as my place to voice their experiences or speak on behalf of them. Therefore I mainly use male models as a channel for my own vantage point and feelings when it comes to masculinity – myself being a heterosexual male who does not strongly relate to this outdated masculine stereotype. But since both male and females can carry traits of femininity or masculinity, I see that my images depict masculinity in both men and women.
KB: You mentioned ‘’An alternative way of depicting masculinity.” Could you give us a little hint about what’s that alternative way?
LW: Traditionally photography has been through the gaze of the male, with the assumption of heterosexual men as the target audience. This has resulted in hyper-sexualisation of women within photography and men only being portrayed as strong, muscular and dominant. Therefore, I decided to flip the scales and place the male model in the same vulnerable, weak, sexual positions which women are continuously subjected to.
My aim was to also highlight the damaging effect of stereotypical gender roles, I did this by building this photo-series around a quote from Stephen King; “Men are not so much gifted with penises as cursed with them”. This problematic reality is due to the penis being symbolically linked to men’s power over women, in modern society aided by sexist phallocentric mass mediated images. To me this sentence captures the duality of men’s situation, a metaphor for men being both benefitted but at the same time held back and damaged by current patriarchal structures.
Annika Weertz (b. 1991) is a German photographer, currently living and studying in Gießen. She uses photography as a tool to express herself and to escape the routine of the outside world working with digital and analogue formats. Her work mainly focuses on intimacy, love and calm moments. Furthermore, she documents the personal closeness in her private life. Her work also explores her view on masculinity capturing male vulnerability and fragility.
KB: We love that your works have the glowing light with heavenly vintage vibe in it. What influences you to have this style?
AW: Thanks a lot. Since the beginning of 2017 I have had the urge to escape reality within my work from time to time. The vintage style is heavily influenced or caused by my nostalgia for the 60s and 70s. I like to think this was a time when life was simpler and easier, which obviously is the main symptom of nostalgia, although life probably was not easier back then. The aesthetics of that time go straight to my heart. I mostly only listen to music from that era and I try to visualise the feeling that music gives me. Songs like “The Crystal Ship” by the Doors (or generally everything they have done) gives me an otherworldly feeling that just makes me want to forget about my daily routine. I want to translate my inner world into photographic works that allow the audience to dive into my mind and day dreams.
KB: ‘Water’ seems to play an important role in your photography works – by the lake, in the tub etc. Is there a hidden message that you want to tell with ‘Water’ element?
AW: The bathtub or water in general played a huge role in my work and I guess it will do for another while. This also has to do with escapism. I find the bathtub to be one of those ordinary objects that makes you forget about the outside world. Water makes you float, it covers you ears, it makes your vision hazy and allows you to literally dive into a different world in a way. After not being able to shoot in a lake because it was winter, I gave myself a challenge to shoot people in the bathtub trying to create a special and intimate world with very limited space. For some reason I just find the bathtub to be fascinating. So mundane and yet such a good tool to hide from the world.
KB: What makes you feel that you need to explain the topic “New Masculinity” with their fragility and soft side?
AW: When a lot of feminist art reached its peak, I was inspired to contribute something, too. But I did not want it to be necessarily about me or women. I was wondering actually how the perception of masculinity changes while the perception of feminity did. I don’t feel like I necessarily need to explain “New Masculinity”, I just want to share my view on masculinity to show that men are beautiful if they are portrayed in a softer way that allows them to unfold inner fragility even. Not every man is a hunk, just like not every woman is a bombshell. I think focusing on men is just my way of saying “By the way, they are different ways to portray masculine beauty.”
KB: You said “Because we are all people with similar feelings. We are experiencing some similar pressure”. Is there only the negative side from the pressure for you? Why can’t we embrace the pressure and transform us into a stronger person?
AW: No not necessarily. Rather than bowing to the pressure my instant reaction is doing the opposite. So in that sense, the pressure can help to find yourself and realise that conforming to societal beauty standards is nothing worth striving for, but individuality is. My statement was more linked to feminism though. I had the feeling a lot of women want to exclude men from the conversation, which is is comprehensible regarding the very dominant Male Gaze (- that mostly only sexualises and objectifies the female body on all levels). But I felt if women and men stop having the conversation together, we won’t reach the equality we should aim for. By saying that I wanted to emphasise that not only women experience societal pressure, men do, too. And this toxic masculinity is not only bad for women but also bad for men. Men are more likely to suffer from mental illness or commit suicide and the pressure on men to always be strong and hardly show any sign of weakness creates a toxic society. We should unite and embrace our individuality and change our perceptions of what womanhood or masculinity is.
Phoebe Jane Barrett
Phoebe Jane Barrett (b. 1995) is an analogue photographer and founding editor of print publication, HYLAS. Originally from northern England, she now resides in Berlin where she continues to explore themes of vulnerability, tenderness and fragility through her imagery. Utilising film and Polaroid formats for their inimitable softness and depth, her work is often personal and intimate, exploring the connection to herself and those around her whilst aiming to create a soft world to inhabit momentarily. Through her work, she also aims to challenge accepted notions of masculinity.
KB: Could you give some hints about your work, and what does your photography focus on?
PJB: Through my work I aim to portray a softer world, exploring fragility, vulnerability, and the small, intimate moments which pass by each day that aren’t noticed by most.
KB: We could see that you’ve done a lot of documentary style photography, what kind of moment do you want to capture?
PJB: That’s interesting, I don’t think I would describe my work in that way, but I am mostly interested in capturing the almost moments between moments, if that makes sense… Like, a look, or a gesture, a feeling… The small, personal and intimate moments.
KB: What’s the message behind the Modern Masculinity with soft perspective that you capture?
PJB: I think mostly this series is about challenging traditional notions and portrayals of masculinity… I think if people weren’t so afraid of vulnerability the world might be a softer place to exist within.
KB: Does your New Masculinity series reflect your inner softness? And have you ever felt insecure to show that soft part of yourself to public?
PJB: I think so. Self-portraiture was my main form of expression for a while, but I recently moved more away from this… I think even when capturing others a part of yourself always comes through and this series is definitely a reflection of this.
Yes sometimes… I think most people have difficulty opening themselves up. For the most part I am an extremely private person, but those who are closest to me are very familiar with my softer and more fragile side.
Interviews by Yu-Liang Liu
Where: Blender Studio/Prod.Exe
Boddinstrasse 32 – Neukolln
When: November 11 & 12, 2017
vernissage: saturday Nov. 11 18h30 – midnight
Sunday Nov 12 14h – 20h