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Member deals with the ideals of masculinity and maleness. This body of work comments on our society’s obsession with penis size, and the idea that you must have a penis (or a penis of a certain length) in order to be male. It seems ironic that having a penis is the most important factor in maleness in a society where we are almost exclusively clothed.
This project developed out of my frustration with monotonous photographs I have seen of transsexual people. The images are usually either nudes, simply showing viewers what transsexual people look like without clothing, or photographs of transsexual people doing everyday activities.
Member is not only about transsexual men, but men’s bodies in general. I want to portray the diversity of male bodies in a way that dignifies the models. I want my work to stand in contrast to old medical photographs of intersex people, who were photographed from the neck down, or with their eyes blacked out, to protect their anonymity. Doing this keeps the viewer from having to meet the gaze of the subject and allows them to examine the subject’s body without feeling that they are violating a person. These photographs continue cycles of shame and secrecy; without faces it is hard to empathize with images of bodies. I want to show people that viewers can relate to; full people who inhabit their bodies, not photographs without faces that remove their humanness.
The act of having my models cover their genitals removes the idea that one has to have a penis, or a penis of a certain size, in order to be male. I want to stress the similarities between men- transsexual and non-transsexual, instead of simply illustrating the differences between them, by showing varying genitals. I want to increase viewers’ awareness of transsexual people and illustrate that it is not always- or even often- evident whether a person is transsexual or not. I also want to convey that simply because the viewer may not have known transsexual men does not mean that they do not exist, and that they may have known someone who was transsexual and simply weren’t aware of it. I often feel that having a penis is often the biggest factor in considering someone a man, when in reality, there are many more physical and psychological attributes that people consider when determining gender.
The spectrum chart shows the self-identification of each model, without allowing the viewer to know which marks belong to which model. The spectrum represents the group as a whole, which gives the viewer the opportunity to contemplate what it means to be a man.
Visit www.jaidensimon.com for more information.
In the Member photo essay.
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