WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. We’ve all been there. Witnessing intriguing, beautiful portraits of persons clearly not female, yet not quite male. Meet Marcus Branch, the Philly photographer who’s doing the asking, and exploring the answers through his poignant portraits.
If you think that masculinity equals a tough, muscled alpha male, Branch would beg to differ. He captures the softer, oft-hidden side of men in a series of photos. The words that come to mind are: Sensual, evocative, and dreamy, even when he’s portraying tattooed, ripped guys from the hood.
There’s a forlorn man with his eyes blood-shot from crying. In another portrait, a young black male gazes tenderly at the camera, his body soft and pliant, his arms stretched above his head in a most vulnerable position.
“The current social definitions of Man and Woman are outdated, inaccurate, and unfit. Popular culture, as I’ve grown with it, supports the separation and identification of the two for commercial benefit,” says Branch.
“Now, younger generations have our hands on the media, influencing and demanding what we deem important and necessary. Thus, we change the course of the conversation, the dialogue. We redefine.”
Branch’s thought-provoking works and what they stand for have caught the attention of publications such as Dazed, i-D and VICE.
He is part of a developing conversation helping to reshape society’s notions of the sexes, and his is an important voice.
The conversation has another side. A “masculinity crisis” is brewing online in China, with outcry online over four male celebrities and their androgynous look on one television show. Criticism has been levelled at the celebs’ effeminate makeup, manes, and mannerisms. Parents blamed the “pretty” boys for setting a bad example.
But gender stereotypes are being shattered across industries, and not just in fashion. The Let Toys Be Toys campaign is asking for publishers and toy-makers to stop listing toys and books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys. It has led to major retailers removing “girls” and “boys” signages in stores across London.
Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele has been challenging gender cliches since he took over in 2015. Then, he combined the men and women’s collection into one show. He sent male and female models strutting down the same runway, sporting gender-fluid looks and outfits. It is now acceptable, at least in big cities, for men to wear skirts.
By widening gender definitions with his boundary-pushing work, Branch hopes to one day to “dispel imprisoning social standards”.
Keyyes speaks to Branch, delving into the experimental creative’s motivations, creative process and hopes for the future.