Photos from Men Around the World :
The following is from the introduction to the book:
One night, a week or so after we had moved to the United States in the mid 1990s, I went out one evening with my cousins to the corner store. We were wearing macawis, a kind of sarong worn by men in East Africa. As we walked into the store, our entrance startled a group of Caucasian men. One of them stood up and said, “Fags are not welcome here!”
“What are you talking about?” asked an acquaintance, who had been living in the US before the rest of us had arrived and who spoke better English.
“You’re dressed like women,” said the young man. “You must be gay!”
We realized the difference in culture. You could say this book was born in me that night. I became curious about how other men’s cultures around the world might differ from my own.
The men in this book are very diverse. Vishal Sogani, an artist I photographed in Jaipur, for example, doesn’t exactly dress the way an American might imagine an Indian man to dress. Most of the time he’s wearing jeans and t-shirt. That is because India is a modern nation, and its fashions are influenced by the modern world.
Vishal’s family owns a big clothing and textile store. Everything he’s wearing was picked up from their store, and he was as comfortable in them as he was in his jeans and t-shirt. He also goes to the temple everyday, offering prayers. He goes to both Jain and Hindu temples, which is not unusual in a country like India where faith is much more flexible than here in America. He also lives at home, although he’s an adult. His paintings are totally Indian, with gods and elephants and all.
“I’m very proud of being Indian,” he says to me, as he shows me his paintings, “I love to share India with my friends wherever they may be. I love living here and working here.”
An American might look at Vishal’s life, a man who has friends all over the world, and might think, “This is a contradiction.” But not to Vishal, and not to many young people in today’s India. Their lives are both global and Indian. I think that is very cool.
It was the same with Gerson Couto, the writer and dancer I photographed in Rio de Janeiro. From an American’s point of view, he’s a nerd and a cool guy at the same time because he’s writing fantasy novels, creating completely different universe, but at the same time he’s dancing on one of the most popular television shows in his country. Amor e Sexo, or Love and Sex, in which Gerson is a dancer, is a variety show headlined by perhaps the most popular entertainment personality in today’s Brazil, Fernanda Lima. He’s a big fan of music, but he also loves the Carnival.
It was the same with Lukas Scholpp, the singer I photographed in Mannheim. He literally lives in church, because his father is the priest of one of Germany’s largest churches, but he’s also in a heavy metal band. Rotten Surface, in which he’s the lead singer, is a band that is a hybrid of deathcore/metalcore. It means they are not easy listening, but the passion Lukas has for the stuff was really awesome.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The world is full of interesting people, who are challenging our ideas about them. Since this is a photo book, I will let the images speak for themselves.
I feel privileged to have had this experience, to meet and work with all of these amazing people, and I’m glad to have had the chance to pass their photos to you.
Men Around the World is released in June 25, 2015 from 011 Media.