The Canadian photographer Jean Mailloux explains how he uses his photography to help the men he photographs to overcome body issues and give them a renewed sense of self-confidence.
His work and ethos resonate with me as I have been striving to capture images in a similar vein myself. Like Mailloux I grew up with low self-esteem and a poor body-image and it is only recently that I have become more accepting of the way I look. I too prefer to work with the average Joe rather than employ models. My work over the years has not been about the search for the ultimate Adonis, but working with whoever happens to be in the studio on that particular day and finding what image style suits the man in front of me…hopefully resulting in some beautiful images that the ‘model’ can be proud of and which will give them an ego boost – after all we are often prone to fixate on our supposed flaws.
We are bombarded in the media with an unrealistic image of how fit our bodies are supposed to look in order to be considered a ‘real’ man and therefore physically attractive. Mailloux describes trying to capture “their sensitivity, fragility and even vulnerability … a diversity of personalities and physiques.” His intimate images are full of romanticism and pathos, sensuality and a little playfulness. His gentle imagery invites us in to share the intimacy of the models and by using a wide range of angles, crops, props and focal styles he is certainly very adept and bringing out the beauty in the men he photographs. These are not homoerotic in the style we might usually associate with the word, these images have been set-out to make us fall in love with the man themselves rather than placing him upon a pedestal to be admired.
Looking through his Flikr feed I am struck by his use of mirrors. These are used to reveal the intimacy while also hiding the models complete identity; presumably as they are a little shy about having their naked form upon the internet for all to see and judge. His use of mirrors is particularly interesting as it hints at stolen secrets but also because of our fear of what the mirror shows us when we catch it’s unflattering glance. In her book On Photography, Susan Sontag describes how we are often nervous of being photographed because we “fear the camera’s disapproval” but for many of us we face this fear on a daily basis from our shaving mirror to the accidental window reflection. So it is intriguing to use this mirror reflection as a weapon against body dysmorphia.
You can see an article about Mailloux’s work here :-
And his Flikr feed can be seen here :-