Men Most Mascular
BY Vincent Keith
January 24 2014 5:00 AM ET
I’ve loved photography ever since I was a little boy. My father introduced me to taking photos and I grew up with a darkroom in the house, so it’s been part of my life ever since I can remember.
Though I’ve always had a camera, I got really serious about my photography in 2000 when I bought my first Hasselblad. Since then, I’ve invested heavily in cameras, studio equipment and software. I’m completely self-taught and still have a lot to learn, but it’s a great passion for me.
At right: Vincent Keith by Peter Carter
In 2005, I began concentrating on photographing men. As a huge consumer of content and imagery, it struck me that I wasn’t seeing enough high-quality photography focused on the types of men I found attractive. While there was nothing wrong with the smooth, young, and perfectly formed bodies I was seeing in the media, those images left me cold. I wanted to see that kind of imagery but with models that more closely fit my ideal of masculinity, that is to say, hairy, a bit older and more beefy. In a word, bears.
Discovering bears and the bear community was a revelation. I didn’t identify with many of the representations of what it meant to be gay that I saw in the media. I didn’t look like them, I didn’t share the same interests. When I discovered bears, I felt, to paraphrase Steve Martin, “These are my people!” So naturally, I wanted to photograph them. Sadly, that was easier said than done. It turns out the bears tend to be shy and often can’t see how beautiful they are as men. Lots of issues around confidence, self-esteem, and body image. But I was persistent. I asked friends, I trawled profiles sites and generally asked anyone I could. My hit rate was low to begin with, but as my portfolio grew, people came to trust me. That, my persistence, and, I hope, my results have got me something like 180 models and bulging disk drives.
Above: Harmony 2 (Mascular Magazine Issue No. 6) by Vincent Keith
I shared my work on Flickr and with friends and started to have a following. It turns out that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in my kind of work and/or who focus on the same themes in their work. (Lots of them are in Spain, for some reason). Apart from an interest in a certain male aesthetic, the other thing we shared was a lack of visibility for our work. The more I thought about it, the more I came to see that many of the men in my circle of friends were creative in some way. Either through work or, more likely, as a hobby or past experience, most of the men I knew could paint, draw, take photos, write, sculpt, make music, or do something. But work, laziness, or other priorities got in the way and they mostly shelved their creative lives.
Something is wrong when we choose to suppress our creative instincts. We are more complete and better men if we are able to explore and live out all of the aspects of our lives and characters – and that includes the creative. So I created Mascular Magazine to “Celebrate masculine art and the men who create it.” I hoped that having a platform to display and share our creativity would be a catalyst for getting men to start creating again. I had visions of people taking out their pencils and dusting off the cameras and creating works to submit to the magazine. Even if the works weren’t ultimately published, the act of getting out there and doing something creative would be a benefit in itself. It seems to have struck a chord. So far we have had hundreds of submissions and have published the works of about 150 artists.
I’m pleased to say that the feedback I’ve had has been fantastic. People from all over the world read the magazine and contribute their works. It’s become a form of creative communication. A Kansas farmer can experience the creative works of an Israeli artist or a Korean photographer can share his sense of isolation with a Mexican photographer who is confronting his issues with religion. I love that! Each issue of the magazine has a theme. So far we’ve done "nature," "relationships," "travel," "black," "water," and "portraits." The theme for the next issue is "fetish." (Submissions by February 24, 2014, at [email protected].) I think the themes help inspire artists to create and submit works — a lot of what we publish is new work done specifically for the magazine. The themes also help in editing the magazine and giving it a narrative structure — which makes my life easier.
We have a readership that’s somewhere around 20,000 — I think. … This has been built entirely through social networking, word of mouth, and our website. I’m very proud of that achievement as I think it shows a true interest in, and need for, the magazine. After we publish the next issue, we will have had two full years under the belt, and I’m thinking of plans for the future. It would be nice to see more contributions from China and from Africa — those regions are very quiet for us. Perhaps some advertising would give us the funds to expand the footprint and maybe do a print issue. I get a lot of requests for that. Perhaps we will do more with the website. Alas, these all take more time and specific skill sets that I do not have — perhaps someone out there does?
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