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Images That Will Change The Way You See Masculinity

Entering manhood is not easy, simple, or even pleasurable. The social constructs often related to masculinity are cannons of heterosexuality and savagery of both mind and spirit. The guise of being a man often falls into a stereotype, making us believe there’s only one way to be male. Sexism affects men by fostering the belief that they should protect, procreate, and provide. Any member of the sex who does not fall into the category of the Manly Man is seen as a failure.  



This issue is so embedded into our culture and language that we barely notice it at time. Yet if we ask a random person on the street for traits they think are masculine, we’d realize just how programmed we’ve been about gender roles and stereotypes. But where do these ideas of strength and brute force come from?


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Amidst this complex argument and analysis we find Ryan James Caruthers photography. This young artist uses portraits to explore the deeply rooted ideas on masculinity. He deconstructs male archetypes by placing the idea of a teenager being a boy becoming a man, against homoeroticism. Because, if we’re being honest, sport rituals and physical competitions are based on appreciation between two equals, the joy of belonging, assimilating, and dominating. This results in an encounter that is as homo as it is hetereo, within a society that enjoys observing something it then repels.


What traits have we come to understand as masculine? Are they biological, behavioral, emotional, generational, expressive, or even unknown? By turning manhood into a psychological experience or a social phenomenon that is constantly being changed, the answer seems to even less simple than we thought.


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Since childhood Caruther suffers from a condition called Pectus Excavatum, where his ribs and sternum developed in a way that his chest is concave instead of convex. This resulted in him never being allowed to play on a sports team or even a group of peers who would treat him as an equal. He was also not considered attractive by the girls from his native New Jersey, a geographic example of being so far from diversity and so close to archaic ideals. So for him, being an unconventional man gave him the opportunity to be a model for visual research into the idea of manhood.


His studio series Tryouts is also a self-exploration into the complicated path of meanings and representation. Through high school themed gestures and scenarios, which already represent masculine discovery, Ryan James puts himself between symbols and dreams that narrate a life of muscular and sexual demands. All of this in order to link the construct of manhood, homosexuality, and athleticism. Three focus points to establish unique masculinity with its violence, bodies, (dis)comfort, loneliness, and pleasure.



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Through Ryan James Caruthers’ photography we notice that there are multiple versions of masculinity. There’s never just one kind or type. Masculinity can be achieved regardless of being born with a penis or a vagina, having herculean or Lilliputian proportions, even a tough or sweet attitude. The idea of manhood is changing in order to not fit a particular box or category; instead it’s in constant evolution.

You can find more about Ryan James Caruthers and his other photography projects here


Translated by María Suárez Ruiz







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