photographer tyler udall is redefining male intimacy
"Males (especially gay males) are constantly ostracised for demonstrating ‘feminine’ qualities: creativity, sensitivity and empathy. Being gentle is frowned upon. Why?"
Photographers like Tyler Udall help to smash the snore-fest conventionality that men are often forced to embrace. Udall acknowledges that men are just as vulnerable, just as pressured and just as susceptible to corporate and mental manipulation as women. His newly released book Auguries of Innocence is a collection of romantic, lustful imagery, nuanced with the emotion gained from a tumultuous time in his life. It's candid, raw and sweet. Say buh-bye to greased-up pecs and six packs; Tyler's subjects are a much truer representation of modern masculinity.
Why are men still finding it hard to break from patriarchal masculinity 35 years after the New Romantics led the gender revolution?
Many people don't actually comprehend or appreciate how ahead of their time the New Romantics were. I feel that there's a globally sexist attitude woven into the fabric of our society; it has men really struggling to drop this patriarchal facade. I do find the links between sexism and homophobia rather interesting. Males (especially gay males) are ostracized for demonstrating "feminine" qualities: creativity, sensitivity and empathy. Being gentle is frowned upon. Why? Not that these qualities are only inherent to females, but for some reason we have predominately associated them with women. The fact of the matter is, men who exhibit these traits are sometimes met with ridicule, shame and are considered weak. This is such a slap in the face to women. Why should these so-called "feminine" qualities be classified as something bad for men?
It's cool for a guy to boast about banging some girl, but a guy chatting about shagging a dude usually comes with a negative reciprocation. Do you think the gay community has inherited the misogynistic-birthed vitriol that women have had to endure for so long?
Absolutely! I don't think that gay men and females are dealing with the same sort of issues, but I do believe a lot of the issues both parties face are coming from a heterosexual, male origin.
Boys are taught to fight, conquer, dominate and "win". This feeds into a culture where men can boast about their sexual activities. "I banged her" can be met with a round of high-fives because they achieved something, scored a goal, conquered someone... in a nutshell, they "won" - in their eyes. It's pretty fucked-up.
That being said, gay slut-shaming isn't actually as brutal as that which women are dealing with, probably because we are men, which is also fucked-up. From my perspective, gay promiscuity can be celebrated by straight men. Generally speaking we fuck the way they wish they could fuck. I'm not referring to men fucking other men, but us fucking in a way that is totally carnal and uninhibited, with a frequency that mirrors our instinctual drives.
Do you think men's rejection of vulnerability stems from its association with and aversion of homosexuality?
I don't think the rejection of vulnerability stems from an aversion to homosexuality -- even though it certainly adds to it. I think this rejection of vulnerability comes from how men are raised. We promote traditional masculinity to boys all the time, and don't even realize it. Girls are psychologically groomed to associate physical beauty with praise and recognition; boys are taught to be tough and not to cry. "Strong" translates to being an impermeable tank, both physically and emotionally. That's just a smidgen too much responsibility to put on one fragile human-psyche, if you ask me.
I think the idea of seeing full frontal male nudity seems to induce minor fits of hysteria for a lot of people. I suspect that the idea of two dicks on one screen having uninhibited sex is still too much for most to handle. Sex can also be a lot like fighting, and in a lot of gay sex, it's anyone's game. I think the general public finds uncertainty more unsettling than any penis - whether you are working with a baseball bat, or a baby carrot.
Do you think it's experience rather than education that creates open-mindedness about gender and male vulnerability?
Having an open-minded upbringing is certainly going to lay down a pretty amazing foundation, but if you don't put yourself in situations and surround yourself with people who challenge and ultimately expand your mind and imagination, it's probably not going to bring you to a place of openness and vulnerability.
I was the architect of my own mental undoing, and it probably had a lot to do with my own destructive curiosity and magnetic pull towards exposure. In all seriousness: really testing life's limits with a tribe of fellow risk-takers - and sadly losing many of them in the process - allowed me to see vulnerability in its most genuine forms. I like to think my photography captures that. I like to think that with my artwork I am educating the public with a new vernacular around what male intimacy is.
Tyler Udall's Auguries of Innocence is out now and available to purchase here.
Text Lewis Firth
Photography Tyler Udall