True Men – Brian Shumway

Posted on November 27, 2011


I came across the work of Brian Shumway on the Burn Magazine website. here    Brian’s practice includes a number of portraiture series. The series featured in Burn is entitled True Men. Shumway’s Artist’s Statement for this work states…

Gender can be a perplexing thing. Despite being flexible and malleable, it defines and confines who we are and how we express ourselves, especially through behavior and dress. Men in particular are bound by the dictates of gender. To be a ‘real man,’ being manly and masculine (or at the very least not outwardly effeminate) are paramount. Expression of one’s manhood, especially in public, must remain within a narrow range of acceptable social norms. Little boys are conditioned as such from birth, almost as a universal absolute. But this ignores the full story of male identity. There is a large spectrum of male experience that is deemed off limits by popular society. The men in this portrait series fall outside traditional notions of manliness and masculinity. 

The photographs are a compelling and sensitive display of men outside the traditional definition of True Men. The work is aesthetically strong. Whilst Shumway has maintained a common formal aesthetic, he has varied the poses and location of his subject shooting them on their own turf. In some cases the location is clearly discernible in other cases it is more obscure. The photographs work well as a series with the whole adding up to more than the sum of the parts. Here are a few of his images:

True Men by Brian Shumway

Matt, 33, Upper East Side, NYC by Brian Shumway

Ryan, 19, Chelsea, NYC by Brian Shumway

Brian Shumway