Possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men is how the dictionary meaning of masculinity defines it.
One dissatisfied photographer for whom the definition was too mainstream decided to do something to change the widely accepted notion that's attached to men and masculinity. She gave the project a name, Every Breath We Drew and went on to shoot a challenging series that is nothing that the normal 'us' would've ever shown our interest in, if not for the logic that she throws behind the shoot.
Male-identified, female-identified, transgender, cisgender and genderqueer, photographer Jess T Dugan sees masculinity not in a particular gender but in the gentleness of an individual.
So for the next 5 minutes, free your brain from any traditional approach towards sexes & their behaviours to add a different level of understanding into it.
Let us try and see things from her eyes for the next few minutes.
Possibilities are strong that some of the following pictures that you're about to see will give you a hard time consuming them.
What made Dugan start a project of this sort?
''I began making these photographs in 2011 after relocating from Boston to Chicago. My previous work had focused on issues of gender and sexuality, specifically within the female-to-male transgender community, and I was thinking a lot about the idea of masculinity on both a personal and cultural level,'' says Dugan.
''The more time I spent thinking about it, the more elusive and malleable it seemed. I also found myself alone in a new city, figuring out where I fit in and with whom I felt connected.''
''Using the investigation of masculinity as a starting point, my photographs became about the intersection of a personal identity and a need for intimacy and connection with others,'' adds Dugan.
Acceptability is something we need to learn and not complaining or dominating when it comes to understanding an individual's sexual/gender preference.
The concept of Gentle Masculinity is what she is trying to teach (educating in a way).
When asked about the idea of masculinity, she says ''I am interested in a version of masculinity that is more expansive, and more vulnerable, than the kind often represented in mainstream culture.''
Accepting that the whole project holds a very personal importance to her, she then adds ''I think of this work as one big self portrait. As someone who has had to consciously define my own version of masculinity against what society has expected of me, I was drawn to people who embodied a similar authenticity and comfort within themselves. I have always been especially drawn to the combination of strength and vulnerability, which is present in so many of the images. The people I chose to photograph often had qualities that I saw reflected in myself or that I desired to emulate. The photographs are not objective documents of individual people, but rather subjective recordings of a moment that took place between them and myself.''
Capturing them in the most intimate of the situations.
Her message to the viewers:
''First and foremost, I want viewers to feel connected to the people in the photographs. I often place the viewer in a position of intimacy with the subject -- in their bedroom or sitting across the kitchen table -- and I hope that this intimacy allows for a meaningful exchange to take place. I also want viewers to question their own assumptions about gender and sexuality, calling into question things they may have previously assumed to be objective or clearly defined. The photographs are ultimately about the need we all have to be seen, embraced and desired as our true selves.''
Let me now leave you with these impactful images so that the idea sinks in you even better.
"I am interested in a version of masculinity that is more expansive, and more vulnerable, than the kind often represented in mainstream culture," Dugan told The Huffington Post.
Look at the confidence that reflects on the face of these people and we agree that the credit for this goes to the photographer who made them feel comfortable only by accepting them the way they are.
These photos appear to be candid and the subjects look so intense.
Like this man who now has nothing to hide.
And this one who is flaunting tattoos that actually speak for her mind.
A glimpse from the most private of the spaces.
There's so much captured in this one single image.
He might have flaws but he is not shy of them.
I hope this series helped you have a wider perspective to the term 'masculinity'.
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