A KALTBLUT exclusive. Photography Creative direction & Style by Elvis Di Fazio. Model is Charles Bilgrien at FiveTwenty Models. Hair By Fernando Miranda. Flowers by Ben Avery at Colourblind. Charles wears Azzo by Azzollini swimwear throughout, Necklace stylists own.
“Pretty Boy, created together with my friend and collaborator Fernando Miranda, is a photographic beauty story. My aim with this series is to deconstruct conventional perceptions of what it means to be feminine and masculine.
I believe that to live a balanced life, we must all embody and hone in on both the masculine and feminine characteristics inherent within us. Quintessentially female and male characteristics are equally strong and essential. A man who struggles to express his feminine side cannot be whole, in the same way, that a woman who struggles to embrace her masculinity cannot reach her full potential. Assigned genders are only relevant to biology and the extent to which we exhibit predominantly masculine or feminine characteristics will ebb and flow with our surroundings and individual circumstances.
For too long, mainstream perceptions of what it means to ‘be a man’ have restricted men to live by a prescribed set of social standards, all too often at the expense of their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Growing up I had a keen interest in horticulture and would secretly tend to a garden in my spare time. While my mates were playing sports or punching bongs, my guilty pleasure would be to sneak off and tend to the flower garden. It was the 90s after all and I was living in suburbia! While gardening brought me so much joy, I was acutely aware of the parallel experience of shame and social condemnation it would bring if I was ever discovered.
Around this time, I was questioned by a child for picking wildflowers at the local park. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked me: “Flowers are for girls, don’t you know that?” How disenchanting, to see children so young believe that certain elements of this world are reserved exclusively for either boys or girls. And the fact that I hid my interest in gardening all those years ago illustrates that I too believed this stereotype to be true. Later, I couldn’t help but ask, who writes these rules? How sad that a boy so young could be so offended by the idea of a man picking flowers, that he felt the need to confront a stranger to correct a behaviour he perceived as a social anomaly.
I believe that we are all visual people and are influenced by what we see around us. Whether through history, cinema, TV, adverts, magazines, social media, friends, family, schooling or the news, They all shape and influence our thoughts and ideas. And ultimately, they play a part in shaping our understanding of what it means to be a male or a female.
We have seen stereotypical ideas of what it means to be a man or woman challenged in recent times. But we still have a long way to go. Dismantling centuries-old schools of thought will take time and require a shift in narrative.
Pretty Boy is my small contribution to that shift. It makes a stand for my younger self when I felt compelled to hide my love of flowers all those years ago.
This photo story is an artistic and visual interpretation that showcases a masculine expression of femininity. Throughout history, flowers have long been associated with femininity. The Ancient Greeks often wore flower crowns to honour goddesses. And today, flower crowns are often worn at weddings as a symbol of female fertility and love. Here we see a confident and strong man, long-haired but muscular, adorned with floral arrangements created by florist Ben Avery. Using colour gels, I blended pink, representing the deeply ingrained perception of the feminine, with blue – socially perceived as masculine.
The culminating purple is my visual representation of the fusion between the two energies. Finally, while sex appeal is prominent in some frames, the sexuality of the subject remains irrelevant.”