Though women’s body positivity is beginning to get the attention it deserves, the men’s body love conversation is still far behind. New York based photographer Tarik Carroll is trying to change that with The Every Man Project, his attempt to give men a safe space to reflect and share thoughts on body issues that guys are traditionally conditioned not to discuss.
Mainstream culture tells us that if we don’t fit within specific parameters, we’re less worthy than those who do. Men, in particular, are trained from a young age not to talk about their feelings, let alone any insecurities they might have about their bodies. Carroll pushes against this by getting the models he photographs to talk about their experiences, good and bad with their bodies. “We all have some form of body image issues, and nobody’s talking about it, so I thought, what can I do [to start the conversation]?”
He realized that he could use his experience as a fashion photographer to show a diverse selection of men in a positive light, while also allowing them to share their stories, not just for photos, but for an Every Man Project book and documentary. “We were looking for people who were open to sharing stories about their struggles with body image issues. People who had worked through them, and who are still dealing with those issues.”
One such person is Marquis Neal, who features in the first round of models you’ll see at The Every Man Project website. “The Every Man Project is important because it serves as a platform and safe space for men to see, interact, and discuss the idea of what body positivity is” said Neal. “[It also gives] representation to men of all body types and expressions that you wouldn’t normally see in the mainstream media or advertising. The idea of any man being beautiful no matter what body type, and the need for that kind of representation in today’s media made this a perfect match for both of us.”
The initial response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, says Carroll. “We have another casting coming up on July 15th, so we’re still interviewing people. Some people don’t want to be in the photo shoot. Some people just want to share a personal essay, so we’ve had a range of people come in.” Pre-planning has begun on the documentary, with a plan to start shooting in July.
As to why it has taken so long for the male body acceptance conversation to begin to reach the mainstream, Carroll thinks it has to do with the demands our culture puts on male expression of feelings. “Generally, as men, we’ve been raised not to talk about our issues. Women definitely have a lot more support, with things like the Lane Bryant campaign or the Dove campaign – there’s just more support. We’re told not to talk about how we feel about our bodies, and we’re not taught how to feel comfortable in our own skin. Now, I feel like more people are willing to talk about it. It’s a very slow change now, but maybe we can help speed that up. There’s still a long way to go for everybody, but it feels like the time is now.”