A new series of body-positive photographs is challenging the way we look at men and men’s bodies. Inspired by his own struggle with body insecurity, Brooklyn-based fashion photographer Tarik Carroll founded The EveryMAN Project, a body-inclusive initiative highlighting queer and transgender men of color with a range of body types. At a time when hypermasculinity is defining politics and American culture, this project is 100% necessary.
Through his ongoing photo series presenting powerful, body-positive images represented by diverse identities, Carroll hopes to challenge masculine ideals and rigid expectations of gender by including men — particularly queer men of color — in the conversation about body image.
“Every man, to a certain degree, has body image issues,” Carroll told Mic in a recent interview.
“But we’ve been programmed not to talk about it. We’ve been taught to man the fuck up and not really speak about those feelings and explore, like, ‘Why do I feel this way about my body? Why do I look at myself like this?'”
A fan of the fashion ad campaigns of the 1990s, Carroll draws stylistically from the supermodel-centered photographs he’d pore over in Vogue, composing the images and positioning his models in much the same way. But rather than recreating the Marky Mark-like “ideal” — that is, white, buff, and unmistakably “male” — Carroll’s models represent men of different colors, sizes, and gender identities, celebrating the men who rarely see themselves in such ad campaigns, if at all.
“Growing up as a black kid, probably the chubbiest kid in the class, had the highest voice, I have always been different,” said Carroll. “Looking at the media and fashion ads when I was young child, and loving what I was seeing but not seeing myself represented, I came up with the idea of recreating ’90s fashion moments, and reimagining them with a diverse vision.”
With plans to release a book, which will include his original photographs, personal essays and poetry submitted by young men as well as an accompanying documentary featuring model profiles and stories shared at The EveryMAN Project’s casting calls, Carroll hopes to not only deconstruct strongly held attitudes about masculinity and its relationship to the physical body, but to also build in its place a safe space for men to talk about body positivity.
“Body positivity is not fat versus skinny. It’s being comfortable in your own skin. We’re also battling toxic masculinity… you don’t have to dress according to social gender norms [to be a man],” said Carroll. “My goal is to show the entire spectrum, going from skin color to body size to masculinity, and create a safe space where everyone can see themselves represented.”