From Ian Lewandowski’s essay, “Jim French, Male Beauty, and Languages of Desire,” for Hyperallergic:
I recently became aware of the hashtag “#masculinitysofragile.” The words together felt poetic. Fragility is supposed to be the antithesis of masculinity, right? Masculinity mans up, doesn’t shut up. But browsing through the photos tagged with it online, I started to put together its logic. The images were mostly of products like men’s soap, men’s candles, men’s food, and men’s iPhone cases, packaged with sleek, sometimes fashionably antiquated graphic design in palettes of blue-gray. Signage for such products can often feel gendered, but the market here is conspicuously indicated as male. When the labeling is stripped away they are essentially the same products being marketed toward women at higher price points. I gather that for masculinity to function on a visual and psychological level today, its signifiers must be present more literally: on tee shirts, shampoo, and protein bars, and herein lies its fragility. Without the designation that a man wears this or eats that, the construct might fall apart.
I’m a photographer, and I’ve noticed that in the past year I’ve made many portraits of men, revealing to me an internal conflict between personal desire and a potentially unsafe cultural climate. Masculinity and maleness are major interests and qualms. I believe more and more that every pose is gendered, but how is masculine energy communicated in a picture today, as opposed to the past? Do similar tendencies arise? How can the boundless nature of gender identity be described in a picture? This is how I enter my work: questions whose answers can only be arrived at visually.