Michele is a photographer on a mission to help men see who they are. The photographer of our cover shot for"Made Beautiful by Scars-raw women's stories" Michele has a gift of bringing out the often unseen beauty in her subjects. This beauty shines in her new photographic documentary series. "Men in Nature" I was able to interview Michele this week and ask her about this exciting work she is creating here...
I migrated from Colombia in my late teens, it was tough to leave that life behind especially as a teenager, but Australia was a much safer place for our family. It was always expected that I would go to Uni and get a 'good' job. So I graduated in IT. It was as part of my degree that I was first exposed to black and white photography but never took it seriously. I enjoyed travel photography and have always been drawn to photographing interesting 'real' people as I explored countries. This meant that I had to get comfortable walking up to strangers and meeting people where they were at. I found that I really liked doing that! Having been raised in a big capital city in Colombia where there was always the risk of kidnapping, I didn't get much exposure to being outside in nature, being free to breathe and experience all the value of walking in solitude and the gifts that come from that. Nature means so much to me now, it is very healing.
Why are you photographing ordinary guys Michele? And why in nature?
I have got so much value out of getting out in nature myself and see how often men are drawn to it. Nature offers a place to refuel and connect with a deeper part of yourself. I wanted to see what would happen if I took guys who were busy in their normal world into nature, a break from the daily grind- to see for myself what would happen to the way they came across via the lens of the camera. Specifically I wanted to answer these questions :
Is a man's connection with nature influenced by childhood experiences? How does nature bring clarity and connection to self? I think men judge themselves - more than women in some areas. Unlike women though, men do not know what to do with those feelings. They feel the great weight of the 'provision backpack' , the responsibility to provide and lead both at work and at home. Often, they don't talk about it. Some men as the years go by, forget what used to bring them joy as a child or a younger man, they just cover up their vulnerabilities in whatever way they can find and keep moving through life.
When I photograph men in places that bring them peace, it is incredible to watch. I see them breathe deeply, close their eyes and arrive back into themselves once again. I love to create images that show the deep strength of the hidden man beneath all that weight of responsibility - in those eyes you see an infinite beauty. I know my subjects can see this too when they first view the images I have taken of them. They stop, they half smile in amazement that the man they thought they had lost was there all the time...
Veronica : Why do you think it is important as a photographer to take images of men who are not necessarily your "GQ model ideal"
When I started the project I wasn't going after any kind of "look" in particular, I just trusted the conversations I was having with the men around me and then out into a bigger circle of friends of friends of colleagues and so it grew. I realised how valuable All men are. How they in particular can forget their beauty - or feel it somehow got lost so early in life. I felt drawn to show that birthright of value back to men. Your value is not in your age, in what you do or what you have. It's an innate thing - I wanted to capture that. I have photographed Dads, young men and boys, business focused leaders and next week I will be interviewing a 70 year old man who loves to rock climb. I guess I am keen to push at the pain that society throws at men to one side and help men just see themselves for all that they are. I have been inspired by the Made Beautiful by Scars project and I like to hear the stories from those I shoot in nature. Building this warmth, this trust with my subjects means that you get to see the fullness of who they are in their eyes and in the images that are coming through in this project "Men in Nature"
My intention is to turn these works into a thought provoking interactive exhibition on how we see men. I am also keen to create a photobook and ebook of these images as I believe they are powerful.
Our writers here at Made Beautiful by Scars are brave souls. In this blog we share what we are upto out in the big old wide world...