This project is a first exploration of my ‘female’ gaze on the male nude.
It started with my wondering why we hardly ever see the male nude in the arts and media. Moreover, the male nude is often depicted in a very stereotypical masculine way. Therefore, I was looking for a more versatile perspective on the male nude, in which you can play with the balance between feminine and masculine characteristics.
The name of the project ‘100 grams’ refers to the difference in brain-mass between a male and female brain. Back in the days, it was thought that this difference in brain size explains the differences between men and women. Although we no longer believe this, we still make the same comparisons. We label certain characteristics of a human as male or female.
In this project I investigate the male nude from a new holistic view.
Did you ever look closely at a nude man?
Above you can read my first call for this project: “looking for men and women for nude photo sessions with the aim of investigating how we resemble each other.”
A few hours later, the e-mails of men were flowing in. In just two days I received over fifty e-mails from men, so I took the call offline.
There was not one e-mail from a woman. I was astonished and put away the e-mails for a few days. After that, I started reading all the e-mails and replying them one by one.
It was back then I also received my first ‘dickpick’. It scared me so much that I immediately photographed it with my analog camera to soften it. After that, I covered the penis with some white paint. This way I could look at it.
A lot of questions came to my mind. Why are men so enthusiastic to be a nude model? Why does an erection scare me so much?
Immediately, I got really excited about my project to photograph men. A few weeks later I had my first photo session. I was kind of nervous, because I did not know what to expect.
It happened during my first session that my model got an erection. The funny thing was I did not even see it until he said ‘sorry’. I was so focused on my composition and lighting.
That day I learned men can get erections even if they don’t want to. In women you do not see physical arousal so directly. We can more or less hide it. Men can’t.
Nevertheless, I started to avoid erections for a long while, because I thought it would cloud my investigation on the male nude.
To me, an erection was very directly connected to male sexuality, power and also danger. I went pretty far in hiding the penis as you can see in this picture. Until I realised I was being ridiculous, because the penis did not do anything bad to me.
So I started to look at it from a photographic perspective. The penis returned and I started to see it as something beautiful. By photographing the penis many times, my perspective changed.
Women look at men too. What do they see?
What if we could redefine ourselves as humans?
“Men look at women and women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” – John Berger
These words from John are still true. In our society there are still more images of naked women than of naked men. It seems like we don’t like to look at nude men. But why?
I heard all sorts of arguments. The female body is more beautiful, a penis is ugly, men have a more sexualised perspective. But what about these sculptures of naked men from the classical period? At the time we did like to look at a man. The sculptures represented powerful men, taut and muscular with a gleaming chest. And, funny enough, a small penis which was consonant with the Greek ideals of male beauty and an epitome of high culture and civilization. A large erect penis was seen as vulgar and outside the cultural norm.
Ever since, some things have changed, while other ideas have remained the same. We prefer naked women over naked men. An erect penis is still seen as something vulgar, but a small penis is also far from ideal. During the project I realized men are a bit concerned with their penis. They feel they need to meet certain standards. They need to be muscular and strong. It is seen as weak if they show emotions or softness. And although women are increasingly investigating their sexuality, there is still a believe that men have a way more sexual gaze than women.
By doing this project I came across all these ideas and I had the opportunity to challenge them. I discovered that the male body is something beautiful and interesting. And that there is more to see than just muscles and manly postures. People considered a lot of the poses of the men as feminine. But is that really the case or is that something that is put into our minds? What if men showed their soft or emotional side more? Can they still be a man?