Re-Evaluating Black Masculinity: Shoot One

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

I've told a few of you of this idea for a photobook that has been maturing in my head since the start of summer.

This was my first time working with medium format film and really only my second or third time scanning film at home. It was also my first time working with Negative Lab Pro and there were many hiccups and frustrations while figuring that whole thing out. There's some artifacting and other errors present in these scans that I'll iron out as I get to grips with the rest of this process. That all being said, I'm mostly happy with the way these turned out and will definitely be looking to pick up a 6x6 camera for myself so thank you Jen for loaning me yours.

The draft foreword for the book:

"The „Black“ man is seen as an archetype or even caricature of masculinity. Non Black men look to stereotypical representations of Black men in the media as both a blueprint for and threat to their masculinity.

This project seeks to deconstruct those images of hyper-masculinity without removing us from the spaces that are synonymous with our presence. I want to depict moments of beauty and tenderness between men without overly feminizing them. Not that there‘s anything wrong with more femme leaning men but this project is about repurposing—about giving new meaning to—the imagery of the barbershop, of the 4 niggas on the block, of the studio. It’s a very specific depiction of us that I want to disrupt in the collective imagination.

I want to address the visual language around men and vulnerability. I've noticed that whenever artists attempt to show men being vulnerable and comfortable in their sensitivity, it is implied that these men must "embrace their femininity” to truly be tender. Visually, this is done by dressing men in skirts, painting their nails pink, or braiding flowers into their hair. While I have no issue with men who chose to do this, I believe that equating values and emotions with gender does a disservice to us all. Sensitivity is not a feminine trait but universal ones—men don’t need to “embrace their femininity” to be vulnerable or share their tenderness with others. Visually that means acknowledging the moments of warmth between men that people have become too comfortable writing off as "men being men." In my experience, when I go to dap my nigga up, it is fulfilling the same psychological desire for non-sexual physical intimacy as when I hug my homegirl. I want people to recognize that when you only display inter-masculine vulnerability in ways that are feminine or pseudo-sexual, it brings this tension of “Oh, I must present in this way for my sensitivity to be taken seriously” which further disincentives men who do not feel comfortable expressing themselves in traditionally feminine ways from being open.

I want to show men enjoying the company of other men in a way that isn't a parade for toxic masculinity nor threatening nor sexual. Not necessarily love and friendship but more camaraderie and an unique familiarity of our lived experiences.

I want to do all this while documenting Black people in Vancouver and Victoria specifically. I'm tired of hearing the excuse that there's no work to be done because "that stuff doesn't happen here.""

Part of this set of photos has been posted on Instagram already and here are the rest of them.

I have some issue with the cohesiveness of the colours across all the photos but I think rescanning will help with that. For the book it might even be worth getting them drum scanned but we'll see!

This is definitely my favourite from the day though.

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