UNTITLED MASCULINITY PROJECT

This is a short pitch about exploring masculinity in australian culture.

i want to ask What is masculinity and what does it mean to the MEN in AustraliA.

USING VISUAL STORYTELLING (PHOTOGRAPHY AND MOTION), WRITTEN INTERVIEWS, AND A BROAD SPECTRUM OF MEN, I WANT TO INTRODUCE THAT BEING A MAN IS NOT DEFINED BY "WHAT IT'S NOT".

The Context 

We keep hearing about lockouts, assaults, and domestic violence, mainly from male aggregators. We’ve unfortunately had instances of men being hospitalised for expressing themselves in an antisocial matter.

Male suicide rates are almost three times that of females (https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Media-Centre/Suicide-Statistics-in-Australia/Suicide-Statistics).

When a woman expresses herself in a way that isn’t in line with what society considers ‘normal’, she is called ‘crazy’, demeaning her and her ability to feel and express emotion. As a consequence, it makes it unacceptable for a man to express himself in a similar manner as there are negative connotations attached to it.

We all too often talk about how we need feminism, but we don’t talk about that from the male context.

Men need feminism so that when they choose to wear pink, they aren’t considered girly, or subordinated – in my opinion, it’s messed up to think that a guy is any less masculine or male and therefore inferior because of a colour choice he makes - and yet by labelling him inferior or girly, we’re saying the same thing to our women: that they’re less than.

Our inability to have equality for men and women has created a troubled spot for masculinity: what does it mean to be male?

Are mass shootings by white men of privilege part of deeper idiosyncrasy with masculine culture? http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/why-are-so-many-mass-shootings-committed-by-young-white-men-623

WhY?

I’ve been stuck on the idea of “how do I take my work forward”; I’m not really enthused with the idea of just doing fashion, or just taking photos on the street, or creating a scene. I really wanted to do something meaningful with my work.

Masculinity and what it means to me is something I feel strongly about. When I was growing up I was bullied a lot for my lack of masculinity and was called the usual names: ‘girl,’ ‘pussy’, ‘gay’, a ‘loser’, and told that no girl would want me, etc.

And that sucked. That really sucked. But what sucks more is that in society there’s something so toxic and really wrong with men expressing themselves outside of the idiosyncratic heteronormative. Doing so supposedly makes us less masculine, and I look at that and think “bullshit! The guy in front of me, whether he be a six foot tall rugby league player, a politician, a barista, or a photographer, he’s capable of the same emotional depth as I am.”

Why are we cutting ourselves off from that? Is that really what’s masculine?

Where does the male gender identity sit?

What makes a man a man, other than what he is not? In many cases, when addressing what is not ‘masculine’ the female alternative is used as a reference-point but with negative connotations – again, that's messed up.

The series I would like to do is based around looking at “what makes a man masculine”, “what is masculinity”, “what is it to truly be a strong man” (and I’m not talking physically - I’m talking a man who’s well-adjusted; who sees the genders equally; who does not need to punch someone in the head to feel like a man; who may not be heterosexual, but understands what masculinity means to him, or maybe he doesn’t, but he’s willing to explore that).

Again, for me, it comes back to needing feminism, and that it really is about equality. But I think for men as a whole, many of us need to talk about what it means for us; we need to talk about what it means to be a man who is not afraid to be masculine, and open, and loving, and caring, and can express this wholly. Strength is more than just a physical manifestation, but also holds meaning in a wider context; not just from footy players, and sportsmen, but from business leaders, baristas, campaigners, and media personalities, all of whom are diverse and broad in the nature in which they carry themselves. 

The idea

The simplest way to express this is to ask a diverse group of men about what they believe it is to be masculine and do their portrait in an environment that showcases who they are as well as a short video.

Honest, clutter-free, and with a clear message: masculinity is fluid, and it is not defined by looking at femininity as a negative; it is defined by a man's ability to express himself honestly, openly, and be able to be vulnerable.

WHAT DOES THE DELIVERED PROJECT LOOK LIKE?

The objective would be to have a broad range of men across a variety of spectrums (including but not limited to):

  • age
  • sexuality
  • ethnicity
  • geographical location
  • profession

The environment itself that the video and photo is taken on, I want to play heavily on who this man feels he is, and have it interrelate to his identity, much like mine plays off in our office space with my camera gear, allowing us to relate better to who he is as a person.

With each man that I interview, I want a 4-7 minute video, exploring masculinity, at least two photos that help the audience understand see who they are (like the one above), as well as a written article (transcript style) that shows a full range of his point of view.

I would like to at least have a group of 12 men done, before I launched this any further, hopefully to be launched alongside Mental Health week in October, hopefully with a gallery launch and hosted online where the content is easily accessible.

My background

I'm a 26-year-old white male from Sydney's north shore. I went to a private all boys’ school where I felt incongruous and pushed against for not being ‘masculine’. This made me feel pretty depressed, as well as out of place - an issue I feel is common with many men.

I studied journalism in Bathurst at CSU, where I engaged in doing pieces on Headspace, and ReachOut at a time when the drought had reached its peak and many farmers unfortunately chose to take their own lives.

When I was 22, I worked with SPUR projects on their initiative against men’s suicide rates called Soften The Fuck Up ~ STFU with Ehon Chan.

I'm a third generation photographer and around the time I worked with SPUR projects, I founded a photography collective that then grew into a creative agency called Voena. Which is my full time job, and also why this project is currently hosted here (cost cutting whilst I expand on the proposal).

If you have any thoughts, contributions (including questions that I should ask), or want to offer help, please contact me on 0403950669 or at oliver@voena.co