The transition from boyhood to manhood can be one of great anxiety and stress as men feel pressured by society’s stereotypes of what it means to be a man. James Tylor explores these ideas in his latest body of work, Act Like a Man showing at GAG Projects this month.
“It’s looking at an aspect of contemporary Australian society which is more reflective of my own experience rather than historical like some of my other works,” Tylor says.
Tylor (who has also been announced as a finalist in this year’s inaugural Ramsay Art Prize) continues to use the daguerreotype technique in his photography but in this instance he is not using it for its historical significance but because it’s a mirror. He uses it to reflect our society.
“I just didn’t even acknowledge the historical and went straight for the contemporary aesthetic of it,” he says. “I am exploring that as well as the way that I display the work.”
James Tylor, Act Like a Man (Fuck You), 2017
The images are fairly self-explanatory, reflecting what our society might consider to be things that indicate maturity and adulthood.
“Some people can have a house, kids and car if that’s considered the norm but they are things you can attain without maturity. You can also have those things and still be doing immature things.”
Tylor analyses the things in our society that we consider mature and immature and points out that the focus is on physical things like a house rather than learning about responsibility and accountability and being respectable and considerate.
Act Like a Man (Tough Bastard), 2017
Through these personal images, Tylor is reflecting on his own experiences with masculinity and maturity as well as the broader impact on our society. While the experience of entering adulthood can be a positive one, it can also be a negative experience through unrealistic expectations which often aren’t met.
“It’s more and more something I am becoming interested in, little aspects of our society that we don’t talk about very much. They are massive elephants in the room,” he says.
Whether Tylor’s images depict a transition into adulthood or depict signs of immaturity depends on the viewer and their interpretation of it.
“l was looking at the cusp between maturity and immaturity and I don’t think there is really any right or wrong answer,” he says. “I don’t even know if I have tipped over either side.”
Act Like a Man
Wednesday, May 3 to Thursday, May 25
Header image: James Tylor, Act Like a Man (Don’t be a Sissy Boy) (detail.), 2017