What does it mean to be a man to­day?

VOGUE (Italy) - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - Edi­ted by Ales­sia Gla­via­no

What does it mean to be a man, ‘L’Uo­mo’, to­day? In a Trump and #MeToo mo­ve­ment era set again­st a new sen­se of aware­ness with re­gard to self-re­pre­sen­ta­tion and gen­der flui­di­ty, ma­scu­li­ni­ty is a con­cept that is being re­de­fi­ned. At pre­sent, men ha­ve mo­re op­tions in terms of ma­scu­lin ro­le mo­dels than ever be­fo­re, yet mu­ch still needs to be do­ne to free them from ste­reo­ty­ped re­pre­sen­ta­tions of ra­ce, man­li­ness and iden­ti­ty. L’Uo­mo Vo­gue asked fi­ve pho­to­gra­phy ex­perts to choo­se one sin­gle ima­ge that they felt was re­pre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the contemporary man.

Pho­to­gra­pher John Ed­monds has pro­du­ced an im­pres­si­ve body of de­li­ca­te por­trai­ts of friends, fa­mi­ly and lo­vers. A gra­dua­te of Ya­le’s pho­to­gra­phy Ma­ster of Fi­ne Arts pro­gram­me, Ed­monds has ma­de a na­me for him­self by pro­du­cing quie­tly com­plex por­trai­ts that speak to the in­ter­sec­tions of art, so­cial ju­sti­ce and the com­ple­xi­ties of re­pre­sen­ta­tion. His brea­kout se­ries

Hoods, ma­de in the wa­ke of the mur­der of Tray­von Mar­tin, asks que­stions about the po­li­tics of ra­ce and sty­le, about how young black men are read in pu­blic spa­ce. Ed­monds has spo­ken of how he wan­ts his work to ref lect the fraught rea­li­ties of the Uni­ted Sta­tes at the mo­ment we l ive i n.

A fol­low-up se­ries - ti­tled Do-Rags and be­gun when Ed­monds had mo­ved to the Cro­wn Heights nei­gh­bou­rhood of Broo­klyn - of­fers uni­que stu­dies of young men don­ning ny­lon head co­ve­rings (a com­mon sty­le in this pre­do­mi­nan­tly black nei­gh­bou­rhood). The­se s inuous, shi­ny gar­men­ts a re worn to keep hair­sty­les in pla­ce and are, so­me­how, si­mul­ta­neou­sly ma­scu­li­ne and fe­mi­ni­ne. In Ed­monds’s ca­re­ful ren­de­ring, a ca­sual i tem of per­so­nal s ty­le be­gins t o r esem­ble a n ob­ject of re­li­gious ce­re­mo­ny. Wri­ter Hil­ton Als ob­ser­ved that in the­se pic­tu­res: “black men we­re sho­wn on t heir own, l ike t otems, but not lo­ne­ly”.

Mo­st re­cen­tly, Ed­monds’s work was fea­tu­red i n an ex­hi­bi­tion i n Co­lum­bus, Ohio, cal led Fa­mi­ly Pic­tu­res, a show i nspi­red by Roy DeCa­ra­va and Lang­ston Hu­ghes’s clas­sic 1950s- era book The Sweet Fly­pa­per of Li­fe, an en­dur i ng por­trait of l i fe i n Har­lem. The s how a ssem­bled a g roup of def ining Afr ican- Amer ican i ma­ge-ma­kers, f rom Car r ie Mae Weems to LaToya Ru­by Fra­zier and Ly­le Ash­ton Har r is, al l pho­to­gra­phers who ha­ve been si­gnif icant inf luen­ces on Ed­monds. He­re he ex­hi­bi­ted his mo­st re­cent ser ies, i nclu­ding an ex­qui­si­te, dra­mat ical ly l it i ma­ge cal led Ame­ri­can Gods,

2017, whe­re th­ree shir­tless men, don­ning do-rags, are sea­ted in a py­ra­mi­dal form, sug­ge­st i ng their kin­ship - a kind of fa­mi ly tree - and ap­pear i ng si­mul­ta­neou­sly sel f-pos­ses­sed and po­wer f ul, whi le re­mai­ning per fect l y vul­ne­ra­ble. As the young pho­to­gra­pher him­sel f said in a re­cent in­ter­view: “great a rt co­mes f rom a p la­ce of u rgen­cy and de­si­re.”

A que­stion su­ch as ‘What is a man to­day?’ is not as sim­ple as its writ­ten words. The con­cept of man is not so­me­thing that can be ex­plai­ned from sim­ple sex dua­li­sm, but mo­re so so­me­thing ‘ima­gi­ned’ in our minds. Un­li­ke other ani­mals, we as hu­man beings need iden­ti­ty: we are ob­ses­sed with at­ta­ching mea­ning to eve­ry­thing in li­fe. Su­ch be­ha­viour could be de­ri­ved from the pla­sti­ci­ty of hu­man be­ha­viour. We can ma­ke con­scious choi­ces in li­fe, but wi­thout cer­tain ru­les the­se de­ci­sions still crea­te chaos. That’s whe­re cul­tu­re co­mes i nto play: cul­tu­re is like a s ystem that con­trols our be­ha­viour.

An iden­ti­ty ac­ts as an in­ter­fa­ce that con­nec­ts cul­tu­re to in­di­vi­duals: in this ca­se, an iden­ti­ty works like a com­mand. The­re­fo­re, if we per­cei­ve an iden­ti­ty to be self-evi­dent, our be­ha­viour na­tu­ral ly fol lo­ws un­con­sciou­sly. Th­rou­ghout the years, man has con­si­sten­tly ac­ted as one of the­se com­mands - but all this wa­vers in the mo­dern world to­day. Now, doub­ts are being ca­st to­wards gen­der ro­les; so­cial me­dia net­works ha­ve al­lo­wed voi­ces to be heard, af­fec­ting the young ge­ne­ra­tion who are na­ti­ve to the­se plat­forms. The idea of man is no lon­ger the sta­ble com­mand it used to be that de­ter­mi­ned be­ha­viour nat- ural­ly. This has led man to be­co­me so­me­thing vul­ne­ra­ble. This is espe­cial­ly true in Ja­pa­ne­se so­cie­ty to­day. It is con­stan­tly a two-way bat­tle bet­ween an in­ter­nal shift to new va­lues, and the ex­ter­nal struc­tu­re of so­cie­ty ma­de to fit with the ‘old com­mand’. The real chal­len­ge exists at the point whe­re the new and old va­lues in­ter­sect. A pri­ma­ry exam­ple of this is the wor­k­pla­ce. Pa­ter­ni­ty lea­ve and/or fle­xi­ti­me, for exam­ple, are not con­si­de­red to be the norm in Ja­pan - the ac­qui­si­tion is dif­fi­cult due to the pres­su­re exer­ted from the boss and col lea­gues, de­mon­stra­ting the mal­func­tions oc­cur­ring wi­thin the com­mand ‘man’ and the unea­si­ness of the i ndi­vi­dual i n this gi­ven si­tua­tion. Ma­scu­li­ni­ty is a con­cept that’s being re­con­si­de­red, but the tran­si­tion is not so ea­sy. Yet I am stron­gly in fa­vour of this pro­cess. In ex­chan­ge for an­xie­ty, man is being set free from the old com­mand. This is si­gni­fi­cant in that ha­ving been li­be­ra­ted from the com­mand, man is now able to re­main uni­n­hi­bi­ted when com­mu­ni­ca­ting with others. Man’s ro­le, t he­re­fo­re, is mo­re im­por­tant than ever in dis­sol­ving the con­ser­va­ti­ve gen­der or­der and rea­li­sing a mo­re eman­ci­pa­ted so­cie­ty and cul­tu­re away f rom the su­b­ju­ga­tion of gen­der.

Hank Wil­lis Tho­mas’s pho­to­gra­ph The Cot­ton Bo­wl, part of his 2011 se­ries Stran­ge Fruit, chal­len­ges ideas of ra­ce, man­li­ness and iden­ti­ty in Ame­ri­ca using the fai­th­ful fol­lo­wing of Ame­ri­can foot­ball a s the sta­ge for his i nve­sti­ga­tion.

Two ano­ny­mous black men squa­re of f again­st ea­ch other in si­mi­lar po­ses, crou­ched al­mo­st like a pre­lu­de to a wre­stling mat­ch. The cot­ton pic­ker has no chan­ce. His cot­ton pic­ker uni­form of­fers h im n ame­les­sness but no i nsu­la­tion a nd pro­tec­tion from the cold bru­tal it y of contemporary Ame­ri­can ca­pi­ta­li­sm that rewards mo­dern man with hu­ge sa­la­ries but de­nies him a sen­se of in­di­vi­dual it y and a voi­ce. The ano­ny­mi­za­tion of the in­di­vi­dual is de­li­be­ra­te and re­du­ces a man to a body to be bought, t ra­ded and bran­ded. The pa­ra­dox of the ima­ge crea­tes an ar­ch bet­ween pre­vious cot­ton pic­ker sla­ve ow­ner­ship and to­day’s per­for­man­ce.

Why is this im­por­tant gi­ven our contemporary un­der­stan­ding of a po­st-ra­cial un­der­stan­ding of ma­n­hood? Fir­st, no sen­si­ble per­son real­ly be­lie­ves that we li­ve in a po­st-ra­cial so­cie­ty, and all in­ju­sti­ce whe­ther again­st gen­der or ra­ce is ab­hor­rent and un­con­scio­na­ble. At f ir­st glan­ce, Hank’s The Cot­ton Bo­wl ima­ge ap­pears be­ni­gn - espe­cial­ly in con­tra­st with well-do­cu­men­ted sla­ve mar­ke­ts in Li­bya and other si­mi­lar pu­bli­ca­tions of man’s cruel­ty to fel­low men. But con­duct a sim­ple Goo­gle sear­ch on manl iness and ob­ser­ve a ple­tho­ra of ima­ges that de­pict athle­tic sports­men in va­rious in­ti­mi­da­ting po­ses. It is tel ling. Ima­ges as tran­smit­ted th­rou­gh contemporary vi­sual cul­tu­re in arts, f ilms, sports, TV sho­ws, li­te­ra­tu­re, ma­ga­zi­nes and so for­th sha­pe our per­cep­tions of manl iness and what so­cie­ty ex­pec­ts young men to aspi­re to. Re­cent even­ts are, ho­we­ver, chan­ging the­se per­cep­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions. Men need he­roes but he­roes of a d if fe­rent sort.

Swag­ge­ring play­boy athle­tes with hu­ge sa­la­ries, the Ja­mes Bond per­so­na, the win-at-all-costs CEO, the amo­ral suc­ces­sful mo­vie exe­cu­ti­ves and pro­du­cers, the inf luen­tial pre­da­to­ry me­dia edi­tors who com­mo­di­fy wo­men and pro­mo­te ra­ci­st ste­reo­ty­pes, and the da­shing sin­gu­lar ava­ri­cious ar­ti­st and art cu­ra­tor - they ha­ve all ser­ved and in ma­ny ca­ses ser­ved well, but they are no lon­ger good enou­gh. We need a new breed of so­cial­ly con­scious men. We do not ar­ch back to the ano­ny­mi­ty of the shear coo­per ear­ning a li­ving sha­ded un­der his hat, or the athle­te pro­tec­ted un­der a hel­met and a hu­ge in­co­me. To­day’s man needs t wo at­tri­bu­tes, one phy­si­cal and one mo­ral. The phy­si­cal is to be iden­tif ia­ble with a sen­se of in­di­vi­dua­li­ty and sty­le. A sen­se of sty­le is es­sen­tial. How you pre­sent your­self says ra­ther a lot about you and your pos­si­ble in­ten­tions. Per­so­nal groo­ming is the on­ly cul­tu­ral prac­ti­ce that eve­ry­bo­dy in the world par­ta­kes in, and it is a cour­te­sy to tho­se who ha­ve to in­te­ract with you. As for the mo­ral aspect, to­day men mu­st aspi­re to ju­sti­ce and equa­li­ty i n an i nter­sec­tio­nal per­spec­ti­ve and not ju­st the re­duc­tio­ni­st view, but ra­ther po­si­tio­ning the rights of ea­ch and eve­ry in­di­vi­dual, ir­re­spec­ti­ve of gen­der, as equal to ours. It is an i nstinct that sees the r ights of ea­ch and eve­ry in­di­vi­dual re­spec­ted. The­re is po­wer in a mo­ve­ment that va­lues men spea­king out whe­re­ver the­re is an in­ju­sti­ce, self-re­gu­la­ting and chec­king ea­ch other’s ex­ces­ses. The new man i s a f emi­ni­st who be­lie­ves we mu­st a l l be fe­mi­nists.

Men to­day ha­ve so ma­ny mo­re op­tions as ro­le mo­dels for ma­scu­li­ni­ty than ever be­fo­re - yet mo­st of us re­main tied to tra­di­tion and con­form to the so­cie­tal norms of whe­re we grow up. The pho­to­gra­phy of De­vin Yal­kin star­tles the sen­ses and de­pic­ts the world as a mo­no­chro­ma­tic hal­lu­ci­na­tion. His pho­to­gra­ph of two young ba­sket­ball players em­bra­cing af­ter a ga­me is a beau­ti­ful ima­ge of bro­the­rhood and looks l ike a mir­ror ima­ge stan­ding be­fo­re a cro­wd. Wi­thin the fra­me two boys on the cu­sp of ma­n­hood em­bra­ce in a mo­ment of un­brid­led emo­tion, love and sup­port. It sad­ly re­minds me of how mo­st men are still on­ly com­for­ta­ble ex­pres­sing this ty­pe of emo­tion wi­thin the realm of sports, the mi­li­ta­ry or mour­ning.

The mo­st pro­found mo­ment in my li­fe was hol­ding my f ir­st child in my arms for the f ir­st ti­me. That mo­ment re­def ined w ho Iam.It al so ma­de me­re con si derw ha tit means to­me to bea man, and­what­th etra itsar et hat de fi­ne ago od man. Ja­son Hal­lett, the man in this pho­to­gra­ph, was a Uni­ted Sta­tes Ma­ri­ne in Af­gha­ni­stan in 2010 when an ex­plo­sion cau­sed him to lo­se bo­th h is l egs abo­ve the knee, as well a s h is right arm abo­ve the el­bow and two f in­gers of his left hand. In ad­di­tion, sh­ra­pnel lod­ged in­to­his te­sti cl es. In an in stan­thewentf rom bein­ga strong, able-bo­died man­to so­me o new ho nee­ded help to ac­com­pl ish ba­sic ta­sks. And he had to learn to func­tion wi­thout the use of th­ree of his four l imbs.

Af­ter mul­ti­ple ope­ra­tions and se­ve­ral years of pain­ful re­co­ve­ry, he fell in love with and mar­ried his for­mer tee­na­ge girl­friend Ra­chel. Like me and my wi­fe two de­ca­des ear­lier they de­ci­ded to ha­ve chil­dren. But be­cau­se of se­ve­ral is­sues, so­me re­la­ting to his in­ju­ries, they nee­ded as­si­stan­ce from in vi­tro fer­ti­li­sa­tion. This is when the pho­to­gra­pher Kir­sten Leah Bi­tzer star­ted her in­ti­ma­te do­cu­men­ta­tion of the cou­ple’s jour­ney to pa­ren­thood. In this par­ti­cu­lar pho­to, Ra­chel helps Ja­son sha­ve. What struck me about this ima­ge was her ten­der­ness, his vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ty, and the love they clear­ly ha­ve for ea­ch other. They went on to ha­ve twins, and thou­gh he could not hold them in his arms like I did with my daughter, his love for them was, I a m su­re, at lea­st as over­whel­ming for him.

I cho­se this pho­to­gra­ph be­cau­se it ma­kes me con­si­der what it means to be a good man. Is it phy­si­cal streng­th, men­tal tou­gh­ness, the bea­ring of re­spon­si­bi­li­ties? Or i s it the abi­li­ty to love, to be vul­ne­ra­ble and to be i nti­ma­te?

I tell my son - my se­cond child - that it is bra­ve to love, to be in­ti­ma­te and to be vul­ne­ra­ble. It may be ri­sky but being a man i sn’t about choo­sing what i s ea­sy.

Mi c hael Fa­mi­ghet t i i s edi­tor of Aper­tu­re ma­ga­zi­ne. Af­ter wor­king with Aper tu­re Foun­da­tion as ma­na­ging edi­tor of the epo­ny­mous ma­ga­zi­ne, he was ap­poin­ted edi­tor in 2013 and en­tru­sted with the pu­bli­ca­tion’s re­de­si­gn and edi­tor ial re­con­cep­tua­li­sa­tion. The ma­ga­zi­ne won this year’s ICP Inf ini­ty Award and has been no­mi­na­ted se­ve­ral ti­mes for a Na­tio­nal Ma­ga­zi­ne Award. Hi s wr i t i ng has ap­pea­red in Frie­ze, Book­fo­rum and Aper­tu­re, among other pu­bli­ca­tions.

Ame­ri­can Gods Pho­to­gra­ph by John Ed­monds The choi­ce of Mi­chael Fa­mi­ghet­ti

Ihi­ro Ha­ya­mi is the foun­der/di­rec­tor of T3 Pho­to Fe­sti­val. He is al­so the for­mer chief edi­tor of Ja­pa­ne­se pho­to­gra­phy ma­ga­zi­ne

Phat Pho­to (2012-2014), and was the gal­le­ry di­rec­tor of Rin­g­cu­be (Gin­za). His se­lec­ted cu­ra­to­rial ex­hi­bi­tions in­clu­de Ale­jan­dro Cha­skiel­berg’s Otsu­chi Fu­tu­re

Me­mo­ries ( 2016), Alex P ra­ger’s Week-End ( 2010). O ver the pa­st f ew years, he has ser­ved as ju­ror, lec­tu­rer, and re­viewer at va­rious in­ter­na­tio­nal pho­to fe­sti­vals and pho­to­gra­phy uni­ver­si­ties. Pho­to­gra­ph by Mayu­mi Ho­so­ku­ra

The choi­ce of Ihi­ro Ha­ya­mi

Green Hair

Pho­to­gra­ph by Hank Wil­lis Tho­mas The choi­ce of Azu Nwag­bo­gu

Azu Nwag­bo­gu is the foun­der and di­rec­tor of the Afri­can Ar­tists’ Foun­da­tion ( AAF), a non-pro­fit or­ga­ni­sa­tion ba­sed in La­gos, Ni­ge­ria. Esta­bli­shed in 2007, the AAF or­ga­ni­ses art ex­hi­bi­tions, com­pe­ti­tions and work­shops with the aim of unear­thing and de­ve­lo­ping ta­lent in Ni­ge­ria. Nwag­bo­gu foun­ded the Na­tio­nal Art Com­pe­ti­tion in 2008, an an­nual arts com­pe­ti­tion that pro­vi­des a plat­form of ex­po­su­re to emer­ging Ni­ge­rian ar­tists. Nwag­bo­gu is al­so foun­der and di­rec­tor of the La­go­sP­ho­to Fe­sti­val and Art Ba­se Afri­ca, a new vir­tual spa­ce for di­sco­ve­ring and lear­ning about contemporary art from Afri­ca and its dia­spo­ra. Nwag­bo­gu has ser­ved as a ju­ror for pho­to­gra­phy awards in­clu­ding Dut­ch Doc, POPCAP, World Press Pho­to and Pri­sma (2015). He li­ves and works in La­gos.

Ja­mes Estrin is a se­nior staff pho­to­gra­pher for The New York

Ti­mes. He is al­so a co- edi­tor of the new­spa­per’s pho­to­gra­phy plat­form Lens, with Da­vid Gon­za­lez. He is the co-exe­cu­ti­ve pro­du­cer of the do­cu­men­ta­ry film Un­der­fi­re: The Un­told Sto­ry of Pfc. To­ny Vac­ca­ro, whi­ch ap­pea­red on HBO in 2016. He tea­ches wi­de­ly and is an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at the Ci­ty Uni­ver­si­ty of New York Gra­dua­te School of Jour­na­li­sm.

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