Male Colours, photography by Amy Astor-Lewis for HUF Magazine

‘Male Colours’ aims to challenge the stereotypical gender portrayal of men that is so harming to male mental health. Contemporary medias depiction of men is one of the symbolism of masculine hegemony as opposed to identity. In photography, men are often portrayed in terms of gender tropes, such as macho, angry and confrontational, and predominantly in harsh black & white.

Everyday phrases such as ‘be a man’, ‘man up, ‘grow a pair’ deters boys and men from opening up. This pushes people to turn their anxiety in on themselves, and the repercussions of this suppression can result in a toxic self-loathing. We can see how damaging this stereotyping when we consider the shocking statistic that men commit two-thirds of suicides worldwide.

In this project, we have captured the male models before various brightly coloured backdrops, displaying the notion that there are there are many ‘colours’ of masculinity. My direction of the shoot was for the models to encapsulate the loving and tactile way two teenaged female best friends would interact. The images are not sexual, however the ambiguous nature of their relationship may leave the viewer wondering whether the models are best friends, brothers, or lovers.

The story of the images turns from the Pale Blue images of the models feeling comfortable with each other; leaning on one another in a warm companionship. In the second stage of our story we have the Pink backdrop, where the models are standing and linking arms ambiguously. This is an unfamiliarly demonstrative stance for young men. The Pink is to convey a young, innocent and delicate stage of life, but also subverting the social expectations determining how view a ‘gendered colour’.

In the final images we see the models platonically embracing and proudly holding hands, free from any sense of awkwardness or self-consciousness. The Red in this image is to show the bold and passionate intensity a friendship can have.

My aim is for these images to resonate with boys and young men who feel pressured by society to be something they’re not. By challenging how masculinity is portrayed, I hope this will encourage the audience to deviate from social stereotypes, and ultimately encourage men to stop bottling up their pain, and to be open, vulnerable and sensitive.

I feel very passionately about this subject as a feminist, and I believe the equality surrounding this subject needs hard work. I am determined to get these images seen on mass by the younger generation so we can create an understanding among boys and girls, that boys can be emotional and sensitive.

Photographer: Amy Astor-Lewis
Hair and makeup: Laura Marsh
Photographer’s assistant: Nina Astor
Models: Marcus Hodson and Dobri Dobrev @ Select Model Management, and James Edwards