The Insecurity Of Man

This insight came to me (as many ideas tend to) in bed. I was reading an interesting article about Toxic Masculinity (article here) on my phone before I fell asleep. As I turned off my light and settled down I began to run through the times when I felt this pressure, this weight that other men were feeling.

As an actor I feel a responsibility to use my skills to help and relieve people from the stresses of their daily lives. This responsibility, I think, has seeped in to my photography. That moment in bed I had the overwhelming urge to try and make a difference, in whatever small way I could. I stayed up for hours. I tinkered away at a concept to highlight these feelings in men and capture them so that other men could see that it's not just them.

On the first day of my insights I started by asking my man to "think of a time when you felt uncomfortable in the presence of a group of men". This lead to the above responses. What I noticed is that because we weren't in a private space (outside with pedestrians walking around) I didn't get their full emotional connection. Also, with only the one question it was difficult to get a deep connection. I took these forward to my next day of insights.

On my second day of insights I changed the way I approached the men. I took them to a private area so that they felt less concern and pressure so that they could find a deeper connection to themselves. I asked the men a number of questions, but prefaced the questions by telling them that I didn't want to know the answers and that the answers were for them. I asked these three questions:

  • Have you ever felt lonely in a group of men?
  • Can you think of the first time your sexuality was challenged?
  • Think of a sentence that resonates with the period when you changed from boy to man. Tell me the sentence.

The photos above are from the end of the session. I saw the real pain for the first time in these moments.

On my third and final (for the moment) day of insight I decided to bring the men in to a more enclosed space and developed my questions slightly. I used a larger selection of men on this day to gain a broader understanding.

I asked the men to take their time to focus themselves and think about a moment when they felt most alone. When they were ready to continue I went on to ask them these questions:

  • Can you think of the first time you felt emasculated?
  • Can you think of a time when someone (directly or indirectly) challenged your masculinity in a group of people?
  • Think of a sentence that resonates with the period when you changed from boy to man. Tell me the sentence.
  • Have you ever been emasculated by a woman?
  • What part of your body makes you most uncomfortable?

Having seen these men go to the places I asked of them I realised why I was taking these photos. These photos are evidence. We can read a hundred articles on toxic masculinity and never be sure that it is a disease that really affects all men. But these photos are proof. l see the pain in their eyes and I recognise it. I hear the answers to my questions without a word leaving their mouths. I remember their memories because their memories are my memories in that moment.

After the sessions I would remind them that most, if not every, man has felt these feelings. I reminded them that they are not alone. I reminded them that being vulnerable is the strongest way to approach the world. In the words of Jim Carrey, "If you aren't in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret."

I look back at these photos and I feel real admiration for these men. I want to thank each and every one of them for giving me a chance to see them at their most vulnerable and capture something that hopefully leads to another man seeing it and recognising it and knowing that it's okay to feel it because other men feel it too.