Australian photographer Paul Freeman continues his exploration of the male form with a series of iconic portraits inspired by historic bravery and romance. He published his first book in 2004 titled Bondi Classic, featuring the musculature physique of the men of New South Wales' Bondi Beach, and his following series Outback showcased the rugged men from Down Under. In this project, Freeman, abandons his Aussie fantasies for a more heroic aestheticism.
Note: This post contains male, full-frontal nudity and is Not Safe For Work (NSFW)
We as a society have made great progress towards sexual liberation, freedom, and expression but there is still a great deal of shame and taboo associated with sexuality and nudity. Nudity in art has been at the forefront of this debate from the very beginning. Depictions of the nude human form from ancient, classical, and modern works have and continue to evoke a reaction of shock, the label of shamefulness, but also of intrigue.
"Years ago when I was travelling around Europe, I photographed some of the dramatic and sometimes homoerotic male nude sculptures that were publicly displayed everywhere – and taken for granted."
"They were celebrating maleness in all its glory. Whether commemorating military victories or legendary feats of strength, or even mythical rape, they were sensual. It kind of amazed me that here were these very ‘out there’ depictions sitting amongst otherwise prudish, bland financial capitals and, to me, increasingly conservative societies.
I always had it in my mind that I’d like to incorporate this paradox into my work in some way, and point it out."
Freeman tends to feature traditional examples of male masculinity with furry-chested, scruffy men showing their various muscled bodies in blue-collar and industrial settings. It is this very same exploration of the role of male sexuality, masculinity, and its expression throughout his work that he depicts what he calls "paradoxes of masculinity: toughness and sensuality, courage and sensitivity, provocation and innocence."
"I was meeting with a model the other day and he said, 'I know, I know, you want me to grow my body hair back – you like hair.' And I said to him, 'It’s not that I like body hair at all. It’s that a photo of you looking like you are comfortable with who you are – whether hairy, smooth, whatever – will read so much better than a photo of you looking like you spend a long time manicuring and decorating yourself in a desperate effort to please everyone else and fashion’s sense of what’s hot.'
What people subconsciously find hot is someone who is beautiful plus has the strength to be an individual."
Check out more of Paul Freeman's work on his website.