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'Be a Man!' Exhibition - Sumarria Lunn

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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What does it mean to be a man today?

If someone told you to 'be a man' or 'man up', they are probably suggesting that you should be brave in the face of adversity or - a little more insultingly - to stop being such a wimp. The fact that boldness is associated with manliness, suggests that to be a woman, means you are cowardly or fragile. But if any man ever had to experience giving birth, they might reconsider the phrase and tell you to 'be a woman'.

Gender stereotypes have been ingrained in our society, and although we are working towards equality, there is still a long way to go. In a new exhibition, which runs until the 19th April at the Sumarria Lunn Gallery, six photographers have taken on the task of uncovering what it means to be a man in today's society.

While Claude Cahun and Alexis Hunter explore gender subversion, Hank Willis Thomas and Mahtab Hussain look at the cultural and religious roles required of men.

Originally born Lucy Schwob in 1894, Claude Cahun constantly reinvented his/herself in front of the camera. S/he would pose in different styles, taking on both masculine and feminine identities clichés surrounding a gender.

Alexis Hunter, on the other hand, switches male/female 'gaze' role. Classic Hollywood films (and many others) use a technique called the 'gaze', where the camera would focus on the sexual aspects of a female actress's body in order to attract the male eye, and force audiences to become unwilling voyeurs. With her photography, Hunter turns the gaze onto male subjects, taking on an almost sadist role as she then lights the pictures on fire.

Hank Willis Thomas considers the words of Martin Luther King in 1968: 'I am a man'. Rather than a reference to gender, King was distinguishing himself as part of the human race, or rather 'mankind'. Thomas looks at the aspects of black equality.

Mahtab Hussain studies gender and culture, and questions the role of a British Pakistani and the traditions of being a muslim, such as code of dress, and the expectation to grow a beard.

Other photographers include Miguel Rael and Ali Kazim, who look at the deconstruction of gender roles.
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Why? Thought provoking art
When: 14th March - 19th April
Phone: 020 7493 9598
Where: Sumarria Lunn
Cost: Free
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