“[Women] are constantly being made aware of the male gaze whether it’s while walking down the street or standing in line at the grocery check out covered in ten layers of clothing or wearing nothing at all.” Following what she calls a personal assortment of frustration with this, director Amirah Tajdin decided to respond in her own way and asked various men in her life to be the subjects of her gaze through the camera lens. The relationships she has with her models range from high school art class desk-mates to professional friends, from friends she sees out on a Dubai weekend¬†to new friendships with kindred spirits.
‘Beautiful Boys’ is a play on the idea of the gendered gaze, how this is performed and how this has an effect on whether the person on the receiving end feels safe or not.
Amirah provided each of her subjects with a “safety blanket” which they interpreted in their own way against their bodies: a possible signifier of how they felt in the situation or merely a costume to play with. Using the piece of fabric in each shot was also inspired by portraits from the 1800s of Navajo Native American tribesmen wearing blankets. The intention of this is to express the concept of objectification being tied into how the gaze is either returned, owned, ignored or forced on us based on “social decrees of gender and exoticism”. Amirah describes ‘Beautiful Boys’ as¬†her attempt at returning, owning and blurring the gendered-exotic-gaze.
Amirah says that the most interesting part of creating the series were the mens’ reactions to her invitation to turn them into an art project, “None of them asked too many questions, they all rocked up and were comfortable to be on display. It helps that most of them are good friends of mine but I guess this also speaks volumes about how men don’t have to think too much about being objects because they’re never constantly objectified as much as we are as women.
“That said, taking off my film director hat to go back to my photographic roots, I found my subjects’ lack of acute self-awareness in front of the camera to be refreshing. It made me question the fact that at the crux of it I was a woman behind the lens and maybe that’s why the guys were immediately comfortable. It could also be due to the fact that they could see my intention was to capture the complicated spirit of masculinity and the even-more-complicated concept of ‘the gaze’.
“As an artist of course, I want for audiences to take what they can from it at the end of the day and I’ll just carry on questioning it all.”