Brian Shumway – True Men

Brian Shumway

True Men

ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Gender can be a perplexing thing. Despite being flexible and malleable, it defines and confines who we are and how we express ourselves, especially through behavior and dress. Men in particular are bound by the dictates of gender. To be a “real man”, being manly and masculine (or at the very least not outwardly effeminate) are tantamount. Expression of one’s manhood, especially in public, must remain within a narrow range of acceptable social norms. Little boys are conditioned as such from birth, almost as a universal absolute. But this ignores the full story of male identity. There is a large spectrum of male experience that is deemed off limits by popular society. The men in this portrait series fall outside traditional notions of manliness and masculinity. They possess an effeminate manner, dress, or look, a “girlishness” that is as much a part of being male as weightlifting and football. They boldly embrace expressions of male identity which flaunt the confines of conventional conceptions of manhood and what it means to be a man.

Thus far, True Men has only been photographed in New York City, and has not been published. If i can secure some funding, I will be broadening the project’s scope and reach. To be more inclusive and provide a wider perspective on this fascinating area of male identity, I’d like to photograph men in other regions of the United States from many racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. The idea is to show the universality of this hidden side of male experience. I hope to deepen the viewers’ understanding of manhood and to remind men who may identify with those photographed in this project that they too are true men.



Bio

Brian is a Brooklyn based photographer whose work blurs the line between portraiture, documentary and fine art photography. He has worked for Reader’s Digest, Smart Money, People Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, XXL, TV Guide and other publications. His work has appeared in American Photography, Communication Arts, Shots Magazine and the Photo Review. His controversial essay Black Girl was published on Burn Magazine in 2010


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Brian Shumway


103 Responses to “Brian Shumway – True Men”


  • Love this.. hope to see it expand! Thanks!

    Also, ‘The Kids Are OK” looks like great work..

  • Very nice portraits. Like Eva, will look forward to more.

    I am befuddled at the random “Contains explicit content” warnings that occasionally hangs over an essay. Seems to be very little rhyme or reason to it.

  • MICHAEL

    i would agree, except that we are bound by internet law to do so…our site could be shut down by our server company Media Temple if we did not have that warning if there is any nudity or what might be considered sexually explicit content…for all the junk on the net, there sure are a lot of rules!! yea yea, i know…makes me wonder too…and who knows if THEY would actually shut us down….just playing it safe…make sense?? occasionally we also quite easily just forget to take it off on a totally neutral story…surely we did not have it up there for your Potomac series did we? you gotta remember amigo Burn is published by a couple of folks with laptops in the waiting area of airports around the world…we miss sometimes… apologies…

    by the way, the 120 TriX you gave me just got used in Iowa at the Woodbury County Fair…many thanks

    cheers, david

  • .. and fiddling with the site so it runs smoothly at like 3 am.. do you ever sleep??

    Did I already say I love this work? Yep.

  • 2-4-6-10-13 are not lottery numbers….they are the ones I like the most.
    I did not like the essay one bit but the photography is so good that I ignored what it said.
    They stand out by themselves and don’t really need the context. But of course it’s a project so it does need to be explained.
    Number 10 is the most androgynous…my favorite.

  • BRIAN,

    You know I am a big fan of yours and I keep following your work…. Your Blurb book on “Black Girl” is not very far in my bookcase….and without even looking at the name of the photographer I would have recognized your style immediately…. Many great shots… love the last one…

    Well done Brian!

    Eric

  • Thanks, DAH. Makes total sense. And, of course, no apologies needed.

    And…Very proud to have that film now somewhere in your oeuvre! ;^}

  • there u go…!!!
    all those NYC Mapplethorpe/Wagstaff/warhol/lou reed/basquiat/debbie harry/madonna/lady gaga loooooove!….
    that could be a cliche but why we all hate cliches? especially when are nicely done? And that here is nicely done .. i think its easy to admit it!
    yes! nicely done…:)

  • Great portraits.
    One of the things that is striking here is the consistency of expression from subject to subject. Except for #6 there is a confused, distant, distinctly un-happy tone, in spite of the colourful and playful costumes. These are real people.
    Yes Panos, this is nicely done.

  • These are real people.
    —————
    u know what G?… thats the right way to put it: “real people”…hard not to like it

  • I immediately thought of the series “Black Girl” that caused quite a stir when it was published, now I know why. Same photog, same style, same portraits, same.

    That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some very, very strong images here. To me, the BG set had a whiff of ridicule emanating from the statement that the girls were striving to be fashion models while some were wearing outfits that I am going to call “questionable.” I’m not getting that whiff from this set. Maybe it’s because the subjects are not striving to fit into the carefully constructed mold, but just trying to be what they want. For that reason, I really enjoy this. Well done!

  • To me, the BG set had a whiff of ridicule emanating from the statement that the girls were striving to be fashion models while some were wearing outfits that I am going to call “questionable.” I’m not getting that whiff from this set. Maybe it’s because the subjects are not striving to fit into the carefully constructed mold, but just trying to be what they want.

    Well, weather or not it was ridicule was the question. An important one anyway. I didn’t think so.

    But the fact that I’m not getting that whiff, whatever whiff that was, from this set doesn’t strike me as a good thing, at least not so far.

    Definitely love the photographers understanding of color though. Truly fucking fantastic in many of these pics.

  • Maybe it’s because the subjects are not striving to fit into the carefully constructed mold, but just trying to be what they want……….the subjects are fitting in a carefully constructed mould and projecting a preconceived image of oneself which is dictated by trends and social circles. Dress them up with Wal-Mart outfits and tone will achieve a similar result

  • …………it’s the I wanna be different can I be like you syndrome

  • *LOVE*
    color
    format
    and
    subject…
    strong portraits…
    the details..
    shirts tucked in
    belts
    boots
    sexy boys….
    or wait,
    should i say girls…..
    :)
    ***

  • These are well done. Of course I could have gone my entire life without seeing the mermaid shot. But I do like the work.

    But, I am wondering why BURN is showcasing the same photographer with an essay that is really the same as the Black Girl essay. Also well done, but basically the same style and feel.

    Same photographer, Same essay, Different people.

  • carlo: haha! great comment. i guess my job was done then, either way.

    brian and pete: i definitely see the two projects as related, but they’re not the same. but yes it was executed in the same way as black girl, but the idea is completely different: manhood and masculinity vs aspiring models. but there are similar themes such as beauty and sexuality. to say ‘same, same, same’ is not looking deep enough.

    gordon: good point. as with bg, i think the strength is that they are real people, and you can see and feel that.

    mw: you mean you’d like this to be more controversial, push boundaries more like black girl. you don’t get that ‘whiff.’ is that what you mean?

    eric: again, thanks so much!

    and for those of you interested, black girl is entered into the blurb competition. it’s a whole new edit, statement, and there’s some quotes from the models themselves.

    http://photographybooknow.blurb.com/peoples-choice/category/fine_art?preview_id=7794

  • All strong — the first one is my favorite. Somehow reminds me a bit of Graciela Iturbide, but in color. The mirror is a punchy element of the overall image.

  • I enjoyed this very much and will have to keep looking at it.

    I keep coming back to #4. Very editorial feel to me. The way he’s holding the glove looks like the image of a hero “suiting up.” It reminds me of The Watchmen.

  • Another excellent series, marred by a gibberish essay.

    The photos make me squirm with jealousy, then I read “To be a “real man”, being manly and masculine (or at the very least not outwardly effeminate) are tantamount” and wonder, tantamount to what? Or does the author not know what tantamount means?

    Surely there is someone who can write a simple declarative sentence who would help with the writing. I’d be willing, although you don’t know me. But then you would know me, and it would be all right.

  • Chairman, get over your pedantic self. Ok, so the photographer mixed up the words “tantamount” and “paramount”. Big deal. No need to be so fucking condescending.

  • “i think the strength is that they are real people” ………..isn’t that the case with every person born unreal comment ………………

  • Yea the chairman is not being pedantic………Tantamount and Paramount are similar in sound but have different meanings. While tantamount means, equivalent, paramount means chief in importance… makes a big difference in the meaning of the photographers statement.

  • Yeah thanks for the school lesson Imants but I am perfectly aware of the difference in meaning. Nowhere did I say the words are similar in meaning. My point was that the author mixed up two words. Most discerning people would realize he meant paramount, not tantamount.

  • Chairman, there are essays in which the words matter and essays in which they don’t. In my opinion, this falls into the latter. I like words and photos together, but in this case, the words don’t matter to me at all. I skimmed through them and then forgot them, in part because I did not buy that stuff about social norms. All that needs to be said is said in the photos – and that’s tantamount to being paramount.

  • Brian, not exactly sure what I mean, but I suspect it has something to do with self-awareness or self awareness in the context of society or societal awareness. I don’t know how to phrase it exactly. The big difference I see is that the guys are very self-aware and know precisely where they and their costumes fit into larger society whereas the girls might have been under the influence of some misconceptions on that score. I thought that whiff of dichotomy between societal and self perception was a subtly powerful aspect of that work which I am so far missing in this.

    It just occurred to me that I should read your statement before making a second comment. I guess it’s within the realm of safe to say that the two essays are about defining the confines of who we are and how we express ourselves, especially through behavior and dress. I’m not getting the behavior part from the photos I’ve seen, unless the behavior is posing. Don’t mean that in a bad way. You do an excellent job getting people to pose in ways in which they try to express their self-perceived individuality. I’d say that’s a great strength of your work. And those deeper ambitions are certainly complimented by the technical expertise. It’s just that, and I think this is the whiff I was talking about, none of that is particularly surprising in the gay guys whereas it was with the black girls. Again, don’t mean to be harsh in any way. Just babbling. Bottom line is it’s very interesting stuff well done.

  • Oh, forgot about your question to me. No, the concept of boundaries never crossed my mind. There aren’t a lot of boundaries these days. It’s not so easy to freak out the straights like in olden times.

  • Carsten guilty not guilty ahhh doesn’t matter ………. Most discerning people would realise……..

  • Brian, you know some very untidy people.

  • chairman: yes you’re right, i meant PARAMOUNT. thanks.

    jmalbers and m.avina: thanks! interesting, never consciously made the connection with Graciela Iturbide.

  • If you take 10 portraits of male world leaders and then take 10 portraits of female gymnasts all with the same style and lighting technique. Yes you would have two sets of images with different meanings. But they are still the same visually.

    Maybe I am not articulating this properly and it could be that I get a bit bored with portraiture. I appreciate it, but after a while I get bored.

    Anyway, As I said. I like do the images and I think both essays work fine. I just find it repetitive of the first essay in look and feel.

  • Multiplicity of gene, prolix of experience, we are all shapeshiters…our lives and emotions and selves are in a continual wavering flux, a serpentine swingblading of shifting identities and orientations that have as much to do with the way we kicked ourselves out of bed in the morning as any preconditioned identity bestowed upon us by biology or sociology….We continually transform and in those transformations multiply not only our own sense of self and life but also transform others and their sense of selves. The gambol of life. Or as Rilke wrote, ‘move through transformations out and in…’

    I love this series (although, the cliched bob black lamentation, wish there were more portraits) as both a stand alone exploration but also as a literal sibling and foil with Black Girl. Without revising that long and rewarding argument/discussion that arose from Black girl (i loved the work and was a vociferous defendant), I think the depth of this essay or rather its complex lay in its relationship with Black Girl. It is always interesting to me, and still a surprise, that we still view gender as such a construct of a specific identity (often one as western-judaic/christian-centric at that), rather than the full possibility and complexity and beautifully deranged experience that life and self really is. That we still view gender as a simple duality of x’s and o’s, of sperm and ovum, as penetrator and penetrated, as neat categories of what males and females are supposed to be, seems positively antiquated, and in a sense almost humorous. Maybe it is the city i live in and the friends i keep, but the sense (and sexuality) of the people that pitch up the makings of my life seem generally long over those kinds of constraints. I don’t think the ‘breaking of gender barriers’ is what it once was (thank god) though I realize and recognize that there are still parts of the world and still people that view men as ‘men’ (they supply their definition) and women as ‘women.’ In new york and toronto, these men are no more real or less real than anyone else and I no longer even notice any kind of demarking difference, truly. Well, ok, if the Mermaid walked down the street i’d certainly smile. :)

    The same set of portraits in Pakistan or Iraq or in Syria or Somalia, now that would be ‘important’ in raising awareness and in confronting those societies ideals of what men should be. In New York, it becomes simply portraiture, plain and simple. So then, why then do i like this series so much? First of all the camera work is beautiful as is the working of the light and the color. The only portrait i didn’t like/feel at all was 14. It wasn’t visually or emotionally or, most importantly, environmentally that interesting. But the power of this series lays not in its gender politics but in its INTIMACY. I LOVE THE USE OF ENVIRONMENT here. Again, what Brian has done so well, as he did with Black Girl, is bring us intimately familiar with the private and inner lives of these men, not through what they look like or how they posed but by the envirnonment and their relationship to them. The customs, clothing, of course is part of that choice but dress them up in a Avedonesque environment/studio, the pictures would have seemed empty, because what really works is Brians understanding of self vis-a-vis the environment. this too was a fundamental aspect of Black girl. For is not the self and the working out of self really about our negiotations with the environment: but larger (societal) and smaller (our own private spaces?)…the way we construct these…..

    So, they work as strong, beautifully photographed portraits with great light and color and great location choice…

    and then there is the question of ‘sexuality’…why is it that portraits of men (here) as with the Black Girls seem to ring of our experience of sexuality…why is this….why is it that when we pose (here and with Black Girls) what comes forth often is our identification with sexuality (straight, gay, bi, all)…that too me is also one of the great connectors here; in other words, for me, or how this worked for me was that it again questioned my own relationship to looking at men and trying to label….just as Black girl was also about labeling, how readers label by viewing…in other words, that becomes about defining…not so much that men should look like this (we’re mostly over that) but that we still relegate our stamping (oh, he must be this orientation)….still bothers me about myself that i have this need to define, rather than just to say: great black feather coat (ok, i said that and want that coat) or gorgeous fuscia leggings….etc….

    in the end this is, for me, about our own need to define upon others our own vision…not necessary what a man should be, or what a model should look like or pose as, but what we as people continue to do even when ‘liberated’…we define rather than flow….and that is the kind of heady questioning i go through when looking…after the ‘great portraits’ comes the self-analysis…and that, to me, always means the pictures have made me thing….not about whether these men are any less ‘real men’ than fireman/policeman/lumberjacks/athletes/Obama/clergy/DanDrapers/Perfect Dad, but whether or not i categorize them as being a specific type, oriented one way rather than another…..

    oh, and yes, this:

    GREAT PORTRAITURE (most important of all)

    congrats and yes, show both bodies of work together :)))

    cheers Brian!
    bob

  • MW – Your comment on self awareness is exactly what I was looking for, and exactly what I was thinking when I saw BG. Wish I could have written it.

    Brian Shumway – I didn’t mean to use “same” as a criticism. I love that you use the same flair of color, the same strength in portraits, etc.

  • I didn’t even think ‘gay’ until I read the word in mw’s comment..

  • I think I resent being called a shapeshiter.

  • pete:

    in the harry potter mode :))))..

    now that marina and dima have returned….i’m off to sit it…forgive the purple prose ;)))

  • Bob Black
    Thanks once again for your amazing insight.

    I must dis-agree about #14. It is the expression/demeanor of the subjects which tie all these together for me. #3 is the one I would have left out.

    For me, the magic of photographs first and foremost has always been the portrait. Like you, I am always wishing for more portraits, more connection, within many of the essays that appear here. This series reminds me why.
    It is always fascinating to note what expression, what piece of themselves, photographers choose to look for in their subjects. In this instance, the subjects all present elaborate external personas, but Brian has found the moments when they abandon the disguise, look inward, and reveal themselves.

  • BOB

    The point is that you spelled it wrong.

  • PETE! ;)))))))

    ohhhh, damn….that is funny….but i never re-read what I write, just type and send….now, i labor over artist statements (you’ll see soon) and stuff i publish, but here is like just talking…i guess i really was in a Harry potter mode…should have been SHAPESHIFTERS ;))))))

    AKAKY: :)))…that’s what you get for leaving me at the Kielbalsa shop all those eayars (years) ago ! :)))

    ALL:

    which brings up one last point i forgot to mention: HUMOR…

    Amid the swelter of my overwrought blueberry-omega breakfast comment, i forgot to mention: humor. We are maddeningly bizarre and brilliantly f*^#’d-up species…FAR SIDE indeed….what i loved about the pics here is that bizarre bizarre moment and i’m not talking about their ‘bizarre’ ‘true men’ appearance…i mean: the expressions, the situations…what the hell is up with that Egyptian fetish…and Manzin’s great WashingtonStateApple-lips with the black feather and the expression and stare at the glove of the Latex glove (SPinal Tap’s Smell the Glove lost cover??) and two rusted barbeques??, Brian’s come-hiter expression with, what?, black gloves and of course the beloved Mermaid….just brilliantly surreal and absurd…cause we’re all oddities…yes, even Pete…..

    the expressions and surreal brilliance makes the work that much more human….and thank god….

    transcends the politics :)))

    cheers
    bob

  • GORDON :)…

    i totally hear you on the expressions…they are indeed the thread that stitches this whole thing together…and the surreal juxtaposition of their expressions/environment…..i understand about #3 (it is the oddity) but i love that black feather and crazy read lips that it just sticks…but yes, 14 has the same weird expression,…the posing….we all pose…i guess that is why i hate to be photographed…i can’t do that, i want to run from cameras (which turned me into a photographer)…..

    thanks for your insights too gordon :))))
    c
    cheers
    bob

  • Gordon “Brian has found the moments when they abandon the disguise, look inward, and reveal themselves.” From where I am sitting I would argue that the exact opposite of that statement is what I am seeing here.

    I kinda like the pictures, but I see mainly projections of image in these.

  • No, no and no!
    Sorry, I see lovely technique in these perfect portraits. I mean even the untidy bedrooms are perfect, truly amazing. This essay is beautifully tooled but for me goes no further because it is so posed I find it lacks soul.

  • Imants, yeah probably true, and not worth arguing over any further. I’m just allergic to perceived condescension, and that’s what I perceived in Chairman’s comment: condescension. Anyways, moving on.

  • John g
    It is interesting how we can have such a different take.

    I see men clearly confused about their identities/gender. They hide behind costume, try on different personas, but ultimately reveal themselves to be just sad, ordinary people through their faces. It really is brilliant and very human.

    Paul
    Posed is not a bad thing. When building a posed portrait, we control light, we may direct the physical attitude of the subject etc. However the challenge, and the magic, results from the iteraction between the photographer and the subject. It is constructing a scenario in which something may happen, and hopefully being able to recieve the gift moments when they present themselves. The very revealing expressions and trust we see here did not just happen. They are the result of Brian’s sensitivities and attitude towards his subjects, and his skills at allowing these men to reveal themselves. I see a lot of soul here.

  • shapeshiters (shapeshitters)……. photographers who are concerned with compositional arrangements eg Harvey is a shapeshitter

  • BRIAN FRANK

    if you search Brian Shumway, you will also see his essay here La Chueca ..

    PETE …

    why am i featuring the AGAIN same photographer with the same style? THAT my friend is what photography is all about!! having a VOICE and using it well…the aspiration of every photographer and the reward for every editor/curator

    if somebody told me Shumway had a new set of pictures on ANYTHING, i would be running to take a look..cannot say that about everyone…

    and amigo, you better go back and check out Brian’s whole body of work…look at his Mormon work, La Chueca etc ….Black Girl and True Men are both sets of color portraits with a similar sensitivity for the subject, but bear no resemblance, other than just great work, to his previous sets…anxious to see what he does next…bet you and anyone here would as well…even those who disliked Black Girl or True Men would surely take a look at what he has to offer next…they would not be able to help taking a look..right? c’mon Pete, just interesting unique ideas, well thought out, well photographed…..i can tell you this, that if i were choosing a set of photographers to do regular assignment work here at Burn, Brian would definitely be one of them…

    of course, i do not want everyone shooting like Shumway…he does what he does…BB does what he does….Erica does what she does…Eric does what he does….Panos does what he does…Imants does what he does….

    i just want people who “does” sumthin….yes??

    cheers, david

  • IMANTS

    huh? didn’t know that…concerned w composition? since when? i want pictures to WORK , but any specific “composition” templates, rules, etc are not in my lexicon…and remember being anti “composition” is just as much or worse a “rule” than the rules!!

    what i say is go take pictures..have fun doing it..if you have an eye that grabs others by the balls , then your “composition” is just fine!!!

  • ………..ahhh see what happens is. when we sit down get up look back and we realise that we are all shapeshitters

  • IMANTS

    ahhh, guess so….now what?

  • JOHN GLADDY…

    i am literally sitting here waiting for YOU to just walk in this here place called Burn and just knock us on the floor punch us between the eyes with a brilliant gut level essay…something that will rip our hearts out……just knock the door down and nail it to the wall…

    BRIAN FRANK

    if you search Brian Shumway, you will also see his essay here La Chureca ..

    PETE …

    why am i featuring the AGAIN same photographer with the same style? THAT my friend is what photography is all about!! having a VOICE and using it well…the aspiration of every photographer and the reward for every editor/curator

    if somebody told me Shumway had a new set of pictures on ANYTHING, i would be running to take a look..cannot say that about everyone…

    and amigo, you better go back and check out Brian’s whole body of work…look at his Mormon work, La Chureca etc ….Black Girl and True Men are both sets of color portraits with a similar sensitivity for the subject, but bear no resemblance, other than just great work, to his previous sets…anxious to see what he does next…bet you and anyone here would as well…even those who disliked Black Girl or True Men would surely take a look at what he has to offer next…they would not be able to help taking a look..right? c’mon Pete, just interesting unique ideas, well thought out, well photographed…..i can tell you this, that if i were choosing a set of photographers to do regular assignment work here at Burn, Brian would definitely be one of them…

    of course, i do not want everyone shooting like Shumway…he does what he does…BB does what he does….Erica does what she does…Eric does what he does….Panos does what he does…Imants does what he does….

    i just want people who “does” sumthin with a look, a flair, a style.….yes??

    cheers, david

  • Deja Vu all over again …

  • Hmm, I should clarify I was speaking of the double post …

  • ….now what? ………….. we wait

  • David – thank you for the blurb on Brian’s Mormon work. I had not visited his site, but went straight to it and when I saw the title, “Happy Valley,” I knew immediately that I had found my gate to his Mormon work. I hope I can find the time to pull together a decent sample of my Mormon work before I venture off to New York next month.

    Brian, I must say that I looked at everything and while all your work is strong and powerful, it is your Mormon work that strikes home the hardest at me.

    That, of course, is because you and I share a somewhat common background, except that I was only born in the country of my Mormon heritage, but grew up in a number of elsewheres – although every single summer family vacation that we had was spent in Zion (I don’t mean the park). I did attend BYU and so became somewhat familiar with your Happy Valley, but from a different perspective.

    Your pictures of Happy Valley are so true – the truest that I have seen.

  • Bill..

    Have a look also at his ‘Children are ok’:

    http://www.blurb.com/books/2390783

    It’s only a preview of the whole book, but seems promising.. at least to me..

  • The KIDS the KIDS the KIDS are ok..

  • I really thought la “La Chureca” was brilliant, “Passa Passa” is also visually very interesting and “The kids are OK” is extremely promising.

  • PETE…

    bored? in that case, this is the last time i will take even 2 seconds to write a response to you about anything…don’t want to waste your time or mine…

  • YOUNG TOM

    my mistake..when i wrote the note to John i accidentally re posted the whole thing..you headed back east any time soon?

  • Regarding composition, everything we see when our eyes are open is composition and our brain keeps composing images much of the time our eyes are shut. Composition becomes formal when we make something, be it a widget or a piece of art or in our cases a photograph. To compose is to be human. So photography is really about, as David says (paraphrasing), pleasing compositions. Following rules of composition such as the rule of thirds or the golden ratio will help ensure a pleasing result for the greatest number. But we’re not always after widespread popularity. Essentially, a good composition is whatever we say it is? The trick is for one’s own aesthetics to line up with those who publish or curate or sell what we find personally pleasing. Just watched Robert Altman’s Vincent and Theo, which drives home the point that that may not happen in one’s lifetime. Van Goghs sell for multi millions today and he couldn’t give them away while they were alive. Gauguin was only slightly more successful.

  • yup we get up from the thrown walllaaar a composition of sorts

  • after the thrown part

  • MW- Good composition is what we feel …

    David- Wish, wish, I was heading for Avalon sometime soon. Seems very unlikely since I am ever adverse to ever getting a “real job” ever again, but never say never, uhhm, to the east coast that is. Hmmm, maybe a kickstarter for cross-continent road trip ending on a certain rooftop, or just to buy and outfit the official Burn bus? ;))

  • Conclusion without reading: Very interesting work.

    Now – I know I’ve seen #10 somewhere before. [some album cover?]

  • DAVID

    The bored comment was directed at seeing the same style portraits by the same photographer again, not your comment. My opinion and I stand by it. Many may not agree. But I didn’t realize that everyone had to agree. And I certainly am not going to change my opinion just because DAH wants to take me out to the “woodshed.” There just have to be a shitload of other photographers with work submitted that are worthy of being published here. You say you are swamped with submissions….

    BURN is supposed to be so cutting edge… amaze me with all this work that is flooding in. Or show me DIFFERENT work by the same photographer.

    Again, just to be clear and fair to Brian. I like the work. Both this and black girl. I think both are well done and I understand that the message is different. But the fact is the lighting and style is the same in both. Sure this is fine. But not what I would expect to see shown again on BURN. Again, my opinion.

    Now, it is your magazine and you can display cartoons or used toilet paper here if that is your wish. (and I mean that in the literal sense, not calling anything here toilet paper.) But if you are looking for discussion and a viewers honest opinion of what you show, some will certainly disagree.

    And AMIGO, as for Brian’s other work, I looked at it when I first saw this essay and I would have been more excited to see some of that here instead of this. Why not show that? Passa Passa and Happy Valley are excellent. And as you say quite different from what True Men and Black Girl is. So why show the same concept with different subjects?

  • Eva – I had looked at The Children Are OK, but not the Blurb blurb. Thanks for the peek. Looks like a book I must have it.

    In my earlier comment, I should have added: what a journey from Happy Valley to Black Girl and True Men.

  • All of Brian’s work is incredibly good with something to say but Happy Valley is all of this and more. I’d call it incredibly important in fact, especially within the context of the current political debate. I think everyone should see Happy Valley. I hope Brian, and David, and every editor reading this will work to get this published as widely as possible. Maybe it has been already but I missed it, I find it hard to believe it hasn’t been ” discovered” in fact. I mean #8,#21, and #24 are … tragically incredible, an essay in themselves in three acts. Of course the backstory only adds to this, and if expanded into a longer personal essay by Brian, well, for me, a new american classic. I haven’t felt this way about an essay in a long time, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it before. My two cents …

  • Tom
    I agree with you about Happy Valley.

  • Maybe the publication of “True Men” here on Burn might lead to the broader discovery of “Happy Valley.” Now that would truly be a good thing. “True Men” is good, but “Happy Valley” combined with “The Kids Are OK” strikes me as great. While “True Men” is Brian’s unique vision, it none-the-less resembles work that we see all around us, constantly. “Happy Valley – The Kids are ok” resembles no other piece of work that I have ever seen, anywhere.

    In my earlier comment, I attributed this perception of mine perhaps to my own Mormon background, but I see others agree.

  • Brian’s children and teenager portraits are from another world, absolutely amazing.
    Take a look at these two
    http://www.brianshumway.com/the-kids-are-ok/#/while_traveling/
    and
    http://www.brianshumway.com/the-kids-are-ok/#/childhood_in_disorder/

  • Now Pete, that doesn’t mean Black Girl or True Men don’t belong here and while the style may be different, though not completely different, they do seem a logical thematic evolution in Brian’s work, at least logical from the standpoint of someone growing up in Happy Valley and running in the other direction to see what the world has to offer and how the freedom to be yourself, or whomever you wish, or just the freedom to dream and have aspirations that are all your own, can manifest itself. I see all his work fitting together quite well in fact, a bit of a rarity I think, and it all deserves its space on the stage. Don’t be dragging me into your little battles Pete ;)) C’mon dude, it’s all good, chill :))

  • Frostfrog, and of course I know you know this but I wanted to clarify that to me Happy Valley is about so much more than Mormonism, and that in fact is just the framework for an essay that wraps up so many themes done so many times but never quite like this and rarely, if ever, in one place …

  • TOM

    No battle. Just my opinion. But you said it best: “All of Brian’s work is incredibly good with something to say but Happy Valley is all of this and more. I’d call it incredibly important ”

    My feelings are that if his work was going to be showcased again, this should have been it. Never said Black Girl or True Men didn’t belong. Just feel that they are too much alike to show both when Brian has other important work.

    I gave my opinion, I stand by it and I see no reason to go on anymore about it.

  • All good Pete :)) So when was the last time there was a little scuffle about which of four or more essays from a photographer was the best of the bunch, and general agreement that all are very, very good? Can’t remember one. Congratulations to Brian Shumway for doing what he does in his own way and doing it very, very well.

  • DAH,

    I looked up La Chueca and remember being blown away by it. Good to see something so dramatically different. Seeing how Brian works with color, I would have loved to see that set in color as well. Anyway, it is clear that Brian Shumway has some game.

  • I agree, Tom – and to have all those themes done in a Mormon context – quite incredible.

  • hey everyone, wow lots of interesting, amazing comments. not sure where to start. where did you guys find the kids are ok website? that’s crazy! well none of my work has been ‘discovered’ – ever. there’s actually no interest whatsoever (that i can tell) in it from the mainstream, corporate media, or even in the photography world. sadly, i feel that in mainstream media and the photography world too, what we see is the same, same, same. monotony rules. but that’s why burn is so great. you see things here you won’t see anywhere else. it’s not so much that the work here is ‘edgy’ but rather that the world out there is so absolutely bland. i think burn is helping to change that, but by bit. anyway i’m happy you all see a profundity in my work (finally, people are getting it!) and are connecting with it in a real way, and that you feel it needs a larger audience. keeping my fingers crossed!

    frostfrog: that’s interesting you have a mormon background too. do you have your work up anywhere?

    tom: yes i think it is a ‘logical’ progression of my work, and you actually see some of the same things (about the body, emphasis on character, etc) in happy valley that you see in black girl/true men. it’s great you love the work, but happy valley a ‘new american classic?’ hmmm….that’s probably pushing it.

    DAH: appreciate the props.

  • Frosty
    I just went back and read the project info. It never occured to me that there was a Mormon connection. From my perspective, it makes no difference. Brilliant stuff, the Mormon connection is interesting, but only as a side-note.

  • you can now see the entire kids are ok book at blurb, for the next couple days. feel free to comment or like it.

    http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/239078

  • Brian, perhaps I got carried away, perhaps :)) But still, since you lived it and looked back in and can offer a unique perspective on growing up in a homogeneous, “perfect” America, the place not too far from the vision being offered by the would-be contenders for the political leadership of this country, and quite a few already well ensconced, a place that mixes policy and faith in a repressive stew as never before, then yes, I see your work in Happy Valley gaining significance in the current political and cultural climate in this country. It is relevant, and I find it fascinating that this is one of the most depressed communities as well, and am quite surprised. A publication with some guts, and there are still a few, should surely see this as well, especially if you combined it with a very strong personal essay of some length. Perhaps what I see and what editors see are quite different but this just seems such an obviously perfect cultural exploration of broader significance to me.

  • Brian..

    Thanks for showing the whole book.. simply love it.. how’s the quality though? Are you planning on having a ‘real’ book, or is Blurb the only option?

  • eva i published black girl thru blurb (but trying to get that published by a real publisher) and the quality is pretty good, but very pricey. you can’t really sell books to people via blurb because anything even remotely close to the quality of a real publisher is 60, 70, 80 or more, and that’s not for a fat book, just normal length. so if i get the high-end everything, i’m sure kids are ok will look great, but at too high a cost compared to bookstores.

  • tom great point. you’re probably right. i should write something a little more personal, timely and relevant and perhaps there could be interest….

  • Brian..

    That’s a pity.. I sure do hope you find a publisher, for both Black Girl but also the Kid’s book.. the photographs deserve quality.. and while I have seen some nice colour stuff done through Blurb, bw so far has not convinced me much..

  • It’s hard to imagine for me that someone does not need a text (as I just read), to accompany Brian’s visuals?

    These are not just compositions, color for the sake of nice color, and subjects in a frame, and per frame. These people, just like black girls but also Happy Valley, are more a subject matter (collectively, here males, not just, or even not yet, individual subjects as, truly, they actually say very little about them-selves).

    I gather Brian is not really interested in decoration, in good use of hues, but uses in most of his work color as information. Even in Black Girls, where this is less of the matter, we are reminded we are after all being shown….. Colored girls!

    That is the lesson for me, personally, the use of color as being dedicated to inform the subject at hand. In a way, I even amuse myself thinking that, as important as the genders/duality we talk about here, might be those of color photography vs no color photography, rather than male and female, or blackS and whiteS (for B girls).

    If only because I am not sure this is about genders, but more about identities parading as aspects of one gender. After all, we can see they are males, and even though some see our societies as living on reductive social or cultural ideas, I am certain these men do not live in “backwards” AMerica, but in places, where their choices of appearance and behaviour (which might not be quite identities revealed visually) are totally accepted and for a while already. Plus the bonus of being “recognized” and “seen” publicly, which few “normal” males (gay or straight) have the privilege or inclination. As I would argue that norm these days is less a sign of intrinsec birth-given rith of domination than anonymity.

    That is a lot of places (I am thinking of Eric Espinosa’s pix from Belgium on Facebook. The cultural diversity just won’t allow us to know where this is taken. even after “Norway”, it says a lot how we frelly mix diversity in our western societies).

    Also, has anyone noticed none of these males smile? Which in one way, does confort us that they are not just “half-men”, but that their stance is as forcefully, NORMALLY, projected as would be that of a normal (raised to be “male”, says Brian I think) hetero sexual guy wishing to project maleness. That or they are not very happy people (and a lot less than the “black girls”, even though I am ready to bet the girls may have cause to be less happy, as to the social role/image expected of a black woman if strictly within an economically challenged “black” community).

    The Black girls have dreams, it is what makes them so sympathetic to us, even “stupid” or unlikely ones, we feel they are about tomorrow, their (use of their) bodies in the pictures have written on them not today (which is what helps the ssay eludes all sense of erotic, lustful titillating) but tomorrow. That they are aware of themselves and that will use which that they are aware of and belong to them . In now way, does it mean, they cannot as soon be brought back to being used, rather than using, but that is another subject.

    With the males here, well, we are being told, or rather shown, there is not much to go beyond the representations. They are not smiling, not really friendly too, as confrontational as they can be (given the absence of real conflict) because they seizing us, not us them. Obviously, they have a male ascendant on us, and to be frank, I do not find one of them sympathetic/nice for the same reason, paradoxically that a macho hetero idiot never did. So, the essay has become a damned interesting way to see that new constructs of what it is to be a male might not take us much further than usual, if only more vividly due to these men’s choices of affects.

  • Sorry for the few typos. rith is right, frelly is freely, in now way is in no way…etc….

  • Brian: While there are many Mormon bits tucked here and there in my archives, I really don’t have much in the way of Mormon work posted, although I do keep a blog and little Mormon bits work their way into int now and then (along with a whole lot of coffee drinking), such as in the following three entries, the first of which is set right in your own happy valley; the second is the funeral of my best friend, a Mormon Navajo, who achieved fame in Indian country and who, like me, married a White Mountain Apache. My wife, btw, went on the Indian placement program to Pleasant Grove and then Orem, where she graduated from high school. The funeral was a blend of Apache, and Mormon tradition, with some Navajo elements as well.

    The third is a few scenes from my father’s funeral, which took place in Sandy.

    Last is a little piece that the NYT Lens did on me. They got it wrong about me growing up in Utah, though. I was born in Ogden but left while still an infant.

    http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com/journal/category/thos-and-delainas-post-wedding

    http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com/journal/category/funeral-of-vincent-craig

    http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com/journal/2009/11/11/in-honor-of-a-veteran-dad-who-flew-into-hell-again-and-again.html

    http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/a-warm-feeling-for-the-arctic/

    Gordon: Trust me – even if the Mormon connection was not obvious to you, it is much more than a side note to this piece.

  • It must be so exciting for those west feminists to see these kind of week men…

  • sorry: weak instead of “week”…

  • Weak, indeed. Stay classy Tony.

  • Nice article in the NYT lens blog Frostfrog. Thanks for the link.

  • Herve,

    I was the one who said “I did not like the essay one bit but the photography is so good that I ignored what it said.
    They stand out by themselves and don’t really need the context. But of course it’s a project so it does need to be explained.’

    I thought it was clear why I wrote that. Not looking for a fight ;-) just wanted to clarify.

  • Frostfrog
    Well deserved acolade in the Times.
    Thanks for re-posting the others. I’m inspired by what you do, and the no bullshit/no pretention way you do it.

  • Stay classy Tony.
    ———————
    lol…
    MW,i think its easier for David Blaine to stay breathless for 20 minutes under water than your above “wish”/request to be realized! ;)

  • Thank you Carlo and Gordon – the reverse is true as well…

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