radically soft photos of black masculinity
With her new lavender-hued photo series, photographer Camila Falquez shows men can take part in radical softness too.
Photography Camila Falquez
As Moonlight so powerfully illustrated, the expectations surrounding black masculinity can feel suffocating. Brooklyn-based photographer Camila Falquez saw this for herself when she had to convince her model, LZ Granderson, that posing in pink tulle would not hurt his career. “I said, ‘Listen, trust me. You want to be seen as a man ready to change the stories told about men,’” Camila recalls. Camila first met LZ, an aspiring politician, when she was taking photos at this year’s Afropunk Festival and fell in love with his aura. “He was so gracious, honest, and giving in the way he posed.”
LZ’s initial hesitation only reinforced the message of Camila’s new photo series him. “I feel like feminism is forgetting to also lean on the men challenging what masculinity means,” Camila tells i-D. She hopes her intimate, lavender-hued photos of LZ posing in the nude help change this. “I’m very convinced images can help people gain another type of awareness.”
She’s right. Radical softness — an internet-birthed aesthetic filled with pastel colors, bare skin, and emotional honesty — has inspired scores of young women to embrace vulnerability this year. Elements of the queer, femme aesthetic have touched almost every sphere of pop culture in 2017. It’s in the verse of poet Rupi Kaur, Solange’s soft-lensed music videos, and the head-to-toe silk outfits infiltrating fashion right now. Oh, and it’s responsible for that never-ending millennial pink trend. However, for all its popularity, fewer male artists than female artists openly align themselves with the aesthetics of radical softness. So Camila, who typically photographs women in relaxed states of leisure, made it her mission to bring men into the fold.
“I just want to shoot bodies,” Camila says. “Because I’m super aware that we’re all just bodies and flesh. And if the world tried to understand that, a lot of society’s divisions would disappear a little (maybe).”
Camila talks to i-D about including men in her radically soft photography and how ballet inspires her.
You often focus in on specific parts of the body, highlighting how even shoulder blades and fingertips can feel intimate. What are you trying to communicate by shooting bodies so intently?
I used to be a dancer. For a long time, I didn’t know I was interested in exploring how we express ourselves with our bodies and the way they move. Then I realized most of my work was attempting to find a shared sense of humanity through the body. So right now, I really am interested in exploring race, gender, and a lot of the things I feel are dividing us.
Where did the inspiration for him. come from?
I want my photography to be really abstract. I don’t want it to be just about women, I don’t want it to be just nudes. I realized one day, all of a sudden, that I’ve been mostly shooting women. That’s not everything I want to be doing. I just want to shoot bodies. Because I’m super aware that we’re all just bodies and flesh. And if the world tried to understand that, a lot of society’s divisions would disappear a little (maybe).
Was it hard to find a model who was comfortable posing nude?
LZ Granderson was amazing. I met him during a portrait session I did at Afropunk. When I first asked him to pose for me, he was super worried about his future and political career. I said, “Listen, trust me. You want to be seen as a man ready to change the stories told about men.” He was so gracious, honest, and giving in the way he posed.
You use a lot of pastels and neutrals in these photos. How do these colors relate to your exploration of gender?
I’m always weirded out when people are like, “Oh, your aesthetic is so feminine!” I don’t feel like that’s a proper adjective to describe an aesthetic. Because, what does that even mean? These are just the colors I’m drawn to. To me, the really interesting part is that I don’t only shoot women this way. The world needs men who are not afraid of something that’s typically related to women.
Will photographing men now be a new focus of yours?
No. This time, my goal was to include men in the way I shoot bodies. But I feel like when you make something a [long-term] effort, you start missing out on other things. I’m just going to be open to humans — no matter their age, rage, or gender. I want to be shooting my subjects because their human qualities inspire me.