Whanganui photographer Tia Ranginui’s new exhibition Glazed Donut opened at Space Studio and Gallery (spacestudiogallery.co.nz) in Whanganui this week.
Through photography Ranginui explores the objectification and sexualisation of the male form. She takes conventions normally associated with the photography of women (artistically, pornographically and commercially), and applies them to men and the results are très cool.
A man sits, his face hidden from view, a large disco ball between his legs. Another image has a young man, again photographed from the neck down, in silver trunks peeling a banana. In another, the subject stretches out on a linoleum floor in his Calvin Kleins. There’s a camp kitchness to this side of the work that’s very 90s gay dance party. I’ve seen Kylie Minogue strike similar poses.
The two sides of this body of work are different expressions of masculinity, which is not a fixed phenomena, and should always be open to reinvention. Māori are very attracted to clearly defined masculinity (the warrior, the sports-star, the hunter) when many of us don’t have the pre-requisites required for this type of manhood. A corollary of this hyper-masculinity is that men are not given a way of expressing their vulnerability apart from anger.
Manu’s naked form in front of a curtain depicting a forest hints at the possibility of masculine vulnerability, because on close inspection you can see his scrotum. Sensitivity and femininity are much more obvious in the photos where the mimicking of sex-photography of women is present.