'fuck boy investigation' explores latin masculinity

Hernán Kael's photos of everyday boys use makeup and urban art to challenge the parameters of masculine beauty.

by Diego Menchaca
18 September 2018, 4:00pm

This article was written by i-D México.

"I was always misunderstood because of my appearance and interests, which related to dance and theater and there weren’t many men who were interested in those disciplines. When I went to school, the standards defining masculine tastes were quite heteronormative and basic like playing football, listening to cumbia and kissing girls. If you expressed yourself differently — verbally, visually, or in your body language — it always led to exclusion,” says Hernán Kael, founder of the Fuck Boy Investigation (F.B.I.) project: a collection of fashion editorials that challenge rigid standards of masculine beauty. "Nowadays, as an adult, I still retain most of the qualities that made me unique and they have been important for my career. The development of my aesthetics and personality have validated my creative potential,” he says of his reasons for questioning the kind of masculinity that he and many Latinos have been taught since childhood.

Kael lives in Santiago de Chile and grew up in the north of the country in the Arica and Parinacota Region. In 2017 he founded F.B.I. with Santiago de Chile-based stylist Luckas Matias. Each of the duo’s editorials has a unique creative theme, but they all adhere to the same basic concept of superimposing the masculine and the feminine. The key elements for a Fuck Boy Investigation image are make-up, a street-cast local “fuck boy” with particular and often androgynous features, and Latin urban motifs that show the cultural heritage of the region.

"I reflect my Latin heritage with different compositional elements in photography,” says Kael. “If they are outdoors, we devise places recognizable by their origin, material nature, shape, or chromatic intervention. If they are indoors, we look for complementary elements that situate the context. For example, for our editorial in San Sebastián we featured a very Latin religious kitsch wall, overflowing with plastic flowers, saints, calendars, neon crosses, Christmas lights, and holographic posters.”

"I was very impressed with producing impeccable photos with a more raw and close aesthetic, without so many restrictions and specifications, and I wanted something unmarked by the typical fashion editorial," he continues, citing brands like Ader Error, Barragán, and Palomo Spain as inspirations. "The fundamental purpose is to open the editorial work to new faces with characteristic features, new examples of photography, aesthetics, makeup, and styling. Today the concepts of the most innovative brands are focused on people with particular qualities, not on stereotypes.”

Redefining masculinity also vital for reducing violence and discrimination, especially in Latin American countries where a macho complex and sexist behavior are underlying issues. Hernán prefers to explore the queer, his subjects reflecting new concepts of masculinity like androgyny, atypical beauty, and the deconstruction of gender — going beyond the trend and acting as a documentation of the new generation’s experiences.

"I think we must question the masculinity in which we live to be able to recognize, value, and accept ourselves; it is necessary to show our origin,” Kael says. “Most male publishers are quite straight in terms of styling or just simply focus on the beauty of the face and how sculpted the model’s body may be. I think that the identity of the masculine and the feminine is increasingly more hybrid,” says Kael, as he considers where he wants to take F.B.I. next. "I am very inspired by resistance. There are no more excuses not to make a cultural and ideological change. I would love to continue doing something audiovisual, a fashion film, and finally, have a magazine as a content platform to showcase the talents of the future.”