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Sunday, 11 September 2016

What does it mean to be a man?

Over the past few years I've started interviewing some of the interesting men I meet in my travels. This blog started with a focus on street photography, showing the people I came across who had a way of dressing that inspired me. Of course, doing the same thing repeatedly can get boring and it was often the conversations I was having on the street that was the best part, not their outfit.

Recently I've started to question why I do I have more than enough client work to keep me busy, so what is my driver? Why am I only focusing only on men? Why am I interviewing them at all, if this is just about someone with great style?

The conclusion I'm slowly reaching is two fold. Firstly, as mentioned above, for me a man's style has so much more to do with his philosophy and approach to life than just the clothes he has bought. Secondly, I feel there's a lack of healthy, positive conversation amongst men on what it means to be a man in todays world.

I often ask myself what it means to be a man in 2016? I began to question this increasingly four years ago when I started my 100 Beards project. Other than an obvious trend, a dialogue behind facial hair emerged around reclaiming masculinity and taking control of personal image. I heard countless stories from men with low self-esteem who transformed when they grew facial hair and many others from men who were intentionally breaking the rules of what they were told was acceptable in their work and life.

Pushing a little further, I began to ask subjects about their belief systems, their emotions or spiritual connection. Nearly always this results in a nervous laugh. It’s seen as emasculating to talk about feelings in a genuine, honest way. I know I often feel that way about myself. I'm lucky enough to have some close female friends and I know that not only do many of them have a much healthier outlook on communication but also support systems to turn to in their personal life and a number of resources in print and online that discuss mental wellbeing. I'm so excited to be in a time where feminism is celebrated like it is today and it's encouraged that women should look out for one another. This doesn't seem to be the case for men.

In schools, boys are underperforming against girls at the highest rate in over 10 years. Men are 22 times more likely to be imprisoned than women. One in six men will suffer domestic abuse and suicide is 3 times more likely in men than women. The suicide rate is also the highest it's been since 2001.

Clearly there's an issue. We have a disconnect. I'm under no illusions that my photography is changing the world. This isn't hard hitting journalism or reportage photograph from the front line. On a base level what I do is about aesthetics but I'm hoping that going forward my interviews will be providing a platform for men who don't just inspire with their style but also their state of mind. People who are healthy, grounded and present in their lives.

I'm not going to drastically change the site's content, but I’ve asking more challenging questions and this will continue. It can be as simple as "words of wisdom" or asking them to talk about fatherhood in the 21st century. The main goal is to find a connection.

If you've managed to read all of this then you're the type of person who will probably enjoy my rambling conversations written out here. If you do, I'd love feedback. If you have any suggestions on what you’d like to hear from you subjects or the types of men you’d like me to photograph and talk to get in touch on social media @GarconJon or email on

In the meantime, enjoy the latest interviews below and keep coming back as I’ll be changing the site design in the next few weeks to make old content easier to find and a more enjoyable experience overall.

Thank you, Jon.