Photographer, Jack Fleming explores masculine identity and stereotypes in Whitehawk, Brighton

Words by Jack Fleming

Whitehawk is a large housing estate set in a valley just East of Brighton. Historically it has been an area of deprivation, and due to its geographical location, has felt in some ways to be socially cut off from the rest of Brighton.

This body of work illustrates subjective research around masculine stereotypes and identity. The aim is to obtain a greater understanding of what masculinity is; prompted by on-going conversations surrounding masculinity, how it is surviving in modernity, how it manifests itself and what its role is currently.

This work is heavily influenced by The Descent Of Man, by Grayson Perry. Masculinity is a broad term, but to put it plainly, it is often seen to be the display of pro-active acts such as fighting, vandalism, not crying, not wearing pink, shouting, drinking beer, and being generally insensitive – all of which have become synonymous with masculinity in the modern world.

Of course there is much more to it than this, but these are basic things that most men have probably experienced. The fact it, these traits contribute to the suppression of emotion and conversation about anything considered sensitive. I believe my response is a mixture of my comfort felt in these kinds of environments, but also the subconscious awareness of the much wider and perhaps more negative and constraining effects that masculinity has on men of all ages. I have been making work that explores these issues for a couple of years now, but it is only recently that these conversations and ideas are being applied to the visual work I make.

I am aware that masculinity is a type of behaviour found in almost every man to some degree. What ever that may be or mean to different people, (manifesting in a non-questioning of it or of conflicted feelings) this type of behaviour will out-live me. I openly admit that I carry these traits, and to quite an obvious degree at times, and that they also bring me confidence and contentment at times. And so if anyone is equipped to document and represent this for themselves alongside other people involved in this culture that is both visible and invisible, then it is probably someone like me.

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