In her series Bare Men
, photographer Abigail Ekue
is working to deconstruct the male body. She explains that unlike female nudity, "male nudity isn't used to sell. In the mainstream, we're still surprised and thrilled by male nudity." The mind immediately goes to recent calls
for more male nudity in film and TV, given the extent to which the female form is put on display in popular culture. As Ekue puts it, "we're not at the point where male nudity isn't a 'thing.'"
In general, men don't need any more visibility in mainstream culture than they already have. But Bare Men
strikes a different chord. Rather than exult the naked male form, Ekue normalizes and neutralizes it. These images don't attack or threaten us; rather, they put us in the position of voyeur, even intruder.
What's most arresting about these photos is the way they walk the line. Simultaneously intimate and funny, overt and enigmatic, each image shows men in their homes, naked, and (save for Ekue) alone. They all seem very comfortable, but in a way that we rarely see
men being comfortable; there's a palpable air of quiet vulnerability throughout.
Ekue empowers her viewers (her male subjects must remain under our gaze), yet the meaning of the photos remains complex. After all, how often do we catch men in such a state? What changes when we see a man without his guard up, flaccid and imperfect? Stripped of everything from their clothes to their class, these subjects appear simply as men in their bodies. If anything, many of them seem relieved that they're finally showing this side of themselves.
Click ahead to view a selection of Ekue's work.