Mar 20 2012: Fourteen Monochrome Photographs Showing Men In A Variety Of Roles and Locations (1900s – 1970s)

Talking to someone who’s been following these posts recently led to a point being made that I’d only half-noted myself: that there were far more images of women gathered here than of men. In commercial and advertising photography, the reasons for that imbalance are well-rehearsed, insofar as commercial messages aimed at women tend to present role models and images to which the target demographic is meant to aspire, while those aimed at men either feature the actual product, or present the product alongside an image of a woman in order to eroticise the relationship between brand and market. But why is there such an imbalance in domestic photography? Why so many more snaps of wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters than of fathers, husbands, boyfriends and sons? We speculated that it was most likely because, until the advent of ubiquitous digital cameras, the equipment needed to take photographs would, in most homes, have been the preserve of the men, who in taking the pictures also remove themselves from the documentation of family life. In controlling the making of images, men exerted their authority by appearing mostly absent. It’s an interesting metaphor for the invisibility of power more widely: that it’s the makers of the visual material that surrounds us whose faces remain mostly unseen even as their subjects are used to represent their authority in more nebulous ways: women and children as trophies; the family home as both self-justification and measure of status. As these invisible photographers attempt to influence our view of them – seeking approval by proxy – so the pattern of more centralised efforts to shape our behaviour and thinking can be glimpsed, like a photographer’s shadow accidentally falling inside the frame of the image. At any rate, whatever the reason for the discrepancy, here are fourteen random portraits of men: relative rarities in the albums they came from, but offering a glimpse of those who might more often be behind the camera’s lens than in front of it.

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