October 10, 2011

The Real Thought Provoking Meaning of Men-Ups {featured news}

Pictures from a new Men-Up calendar available for preorder from the artist have been floating around online lately. At his own site, the artist Rion Sabean, a 26-year-old photography student, explains his work as follows:
My works range between two different ends of a spectrum, both of which are held as just as important as the other. One half is overt social commentary, with most works focusing on gender and sexuality, wherein I attempt to bring light to the scrutiny and judgments of society and the nature of said society to define human beings under rigid, and closed-minded terms. My other half is rooted in deeply personal subjects relating directly to myself and my shared experiences with others, sexual or otherwise, in both an attempt to release and cope, but also to demonstrate an emotional side that exists, but is rarely seen by others.

I find Sabean's statement poignant, capturing his work in a way that is so much more meaningful than the "fun" to which, say, The Huffington Post reduces his male-up pictures:
Each and every one of them struck me as utterly ridiculous, and I think that most viewers would agree. (I literally laughed out loud when I first saw them.) Because really, anyone posing with such an earnest, doe-eyed expression on their face must be joking.
And even though noting that "if you exchanged the male figures in each frame for a classically attractive woman, they might be more titillating than funny -- and most people probably wouldn't think twice," and even after quoting the feminist author and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne, internationally recognized for her "Killing Us Softly" series critiquing the discriminating use and objectification of women in advertising, and especially the tyranny of the beauty ideal, the article still concludes that:
Using Sabean's photos as a template, perhaps what we should be doing is embracing a little experimentation and recognizing the ridiculousness inherent in so many parts of our lives. So ladies (and gentlemen) -- grab a prop and start posing.

Sabean, on the other hand, asks us to recognize that he hopes through his photography art to:
demonstrate a hyperbolized reality, that is just as comedic, or tragic as the real world is to me. It is the creation of a new, concrete reality within my images that hopes to jostle the viewer into both a deeper understanding of the metaphorical social and emotional implications therein, as well as just how possible it is for singular events or persons to shape modern society and those around us.
Adds Sabean to Jezebel when asked about how women are still viewed, posed and photographed differently than men today:
I would even go so far as to say that both sexes have become targeted, affected, and shown in very unrealistic ways. Right off the bat, in terms of females, I think of ads for makeup or anti-aging creme. Editing out someone's creases or wrinkles is so easy it's pretty laughable. Photoshop is so prevalent now that it has become so difficult for people to differentiate between fact and fiction. This is also part of the reason why I embrace Photoshop so forwardly. To look at my work is to see the alterations made, and know that it's unnatural.
Visit Rion Sabean's site to learn more about his work and find information for how to preorder the calendar.


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