‘Only a Man‘, confronts the prejudices and typecasting of men and emotions. This telling work features the journey of 39 men who have exposed their bodies, minds and souls by providing an insight into their most intimate thoughts and emotions.
Adam Milgate’s story was the inspiration for the ‘Only a Man’ collection. His image was Highly Commended at the 2002 Josephine Ulrick National Photography Prize held at the Tweed River Regional Art Gallery. It was while on a photo shoot with Mason in Kakadu that Milgate heard that an acquaintance and his children had been killed in a terrible car accident. He recalls, ‘Everybody was shocked and stunned by the news. We received another call shortly afterwards to say that ‘it was only the father who had died’. It was the word only which plagued my mind for some time after and through my own personal traumas and perhaps sensitivities, I began to write about a man’s place in society and my belief that we, as men, are easily disposable.’
‘My scourge is being born into the wickedest majority that ever lived – the white, straight, middle-aged male. We haven’t any colourful stories of prenatal abuse to excuse our bad behaviour, nor do we have dreadful childhoods on which to blame our lack of emotional involvement. Mine was remarkably banal in a middle class kind of way. Everything is our own fault and we’re expendable. We are the majority after all.’
While reading Adam’s transcript, it struck me – society often ignores the emotional needs of those who are seen to be the most powerful amongst us. Disempowered by societal expectations men rarely feel able to freely express their vulnerability and emotional needs. They float in the tide of social change unable to evolve at the same pace as the pressures placed upon them, whilst still adhering to the pressures of being a man, which have not changed. The waste yard of lost souls grows as so many men are left on the scrap heap; easily discarded because there is always another one to replace them in this rapidly changing world.
The stories of these men and their search to find love, joy and empathy are portrayed in this work. Each one shares their experiences of growing up, male beauty, identity, war, work, divorce, fatherhood, disability, ageing, grief, and death.
Tony Miller, founder of Dads in Distress (and who is also featured in the exhibition) said, ‘Men are confused about their role in society. They are expected to be the breadwinners, yet are needed at home to take care of the family. They have to be sensitive, but remain strong and contain their emotions. These cultural expectations can often mask the true symptoms of depression and we can no longer assume that because a man does not explicitly express his feelings or emotions that they are being coped with or don’t exist.
‘Only a Man’ is an important, thought provoking piece of work, which I hope will stimulate discussion and encourage people to be more aware of the conflicts and contractions which seem to make being an emotional man an elusive goal.’