Stop being so weak and insecure. Stop crying, whining and feeling. Just don’t be you. Sit down, have a beer and be a man. Now, let’s talk about masculinity.  

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Boys wear blue and girls wear pink

For a long time, that has been the world we lived in and the type of masculinity we were conformed to. We spat and stomped on anything that was out of the ordinary. It was never allowed to be different. Put simply, boys will be boys and girls will be girls. Boys wear blue and girls wear pink. The same gendered roles applies to who plays with cars and take up boxing. And in contrast, who dresses up barbies and do ballet.  These boys grow up to be lumberjacks and doctors, while girls become teachers and nurses. In turn, men then drink beer and women sip Cosmopolitans.

However, that was back then. In recent times, we’ve seen the likes of Jay Z opening up and admitting to therapy. We’ve also seen TV stars like Jane the Virgin’s Justin Baldoni addressing the issue on masculinity. This is done via his web series, Man Enough. Furthermore, there has also been a backlash against Donald Trump.  His aggressive and authoritative manliness that he perpetuates, is no longer acceptable.

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Detoxifying toxic masculinity

Likewise, the recognition of toxic masculinity has even made its way to advertising agencies. Men’s grooming company, Axe, also released their “Is It OK For Guys?” campaign. The aim for this was to get men to open up about their vulnerabilities. Is It OK For Guys to not watch football? Yes. Is It OK For Guys to not be built like a Greek God? Absolutely. Is It OK For Guys to like makeup? Flaunt it.

As a result, this advertorial shift has also affected the stock industry. Image searches for “gay dads” and “man looking worried” have increased. Therefore, signalling the growing concerns on the immense societal pressure on men. This goes in hand with the acceptance for males to open up and truly be themselves.

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Redefining masculinity through stock photography  

Above all, masculinity is commonly shown as something rigid. There seems like a set of rules to what is masculine, and what is not. However, photographers have begun to take this concept and flip it on its head. Masculinity is now shown in ways which does not adhere to the norm. The ‘Boys by Girls’ magazine is a great example of doing just that. The publication does remarkably well to capture the emotions of young men. To break free from gender binaries, this magazine is fully run by females. Their models include Maze Runner’s Thomas Brodie-Sangster. In addition, Cole Sprouse from Riverdale and  Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has also been featured. 

Another successful attempt to document males as they are, comes from Joseph Barrett. His ‘The Male Gaze’ series focuses on a collection of portraits. These images are intended for people to see photographs without implications of gender and sexual orientation. His take on masculinity being a fluid concept, is also strongly illustrated in his photography. Hence, the images of his collection are highly intimate and vulnerable. A concept which is almost taboo-like in male photography.

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Breaking masculinity stereotypes with Raisa Kanevera

This Russian stock photographer’s take on masculinity sees her exploring the sensual side of men. Most noteworthy are her works which includes portraits of beautiful men with long hair and pale skin. This goes against the stereotype of men having shorter hair for functionality. As well as having and slightly tanned skin as a sign of being involved in manual labor. The smaller frame of the models also breaks the stereotype of men having to conform to the bodies of Gerard Butler in 300 and Brad Pitt in the evergreen Fight Club. The black and white background also accentuates the sensual nature of the image. Furthermore, the vintage filter helps to focus on the subject, the men themselves.

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The role of stock photography on the image of men

The mini renaissance led by the stock photography industry represents a small victory in the growing challenges of male representation. It is encouraging to see the power of photography in the pursuit of redefining masculinity. With that in mind, we have curated three likeboxes in a bid to continue to reshape the male portrayal in the media. The first gallery is entitled ‘Bold and Beautiful’. It illustrates the notion of men embracing their beauty. This includes them breaking free from features and qualities that society often perceive to be feminine.  

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In addition, ‘The New Man’ consists of a series of photographs which demonstrates men as emotional beings. This series aims to address the issue of men having to bottle up their feelings. This often leads to the glaring lack of empathy and warmth projected towards their partners and families. It also eradicates the belief of gendered roles in which men are only allowed to have specific ‘masculine’ jobs.

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Lastly, ‘Boys Wear Pink’ sheds light on a growing concern of silencing boys and in turn, dictating their lives. With the discourse of masculinity often directed towards men, young boys are left in the shadow. Hence, causing boys to do as they are told and having gendered roles assigned to them from the very beginning. Their lack of exposure to such events is a major contributor to their acceptance of such roles. Therefore, further justifying the need for open representations in the discussion of masculinity among the younger generation.  

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For more stock photography inspiration, be sure to visit our website. Meanwhile, if you are interested to share your creative works to the rest of the world, then check out our blog and read up on how to be a 123RF contributor.