While the sexualisation of young females and girls in fashion contexts is now widely criticised, even if it is ever present, the overt sexualisation of the male youth is not scrutinised to the same levels. Often the boy becomes an object of fantasy within editorials, playing out numerous roles, from the boy next door or cheeky Jack the lad to the awkward, shy, inexperienced teen. Sexual fancies are sometimes seemingly reconstructed, as the boy becomes handsome, sexually charged, inquisitive and testosterone-filled before the lens. Often these images appear in documentary photography – albeit mostly captured with a tender treatment of the subject – such as in the work of American image-maker Joseph Szabo, who spent decades capturing the habits and hangouts of his teenage students at Malverne High School, or more recently in designer Gosha Rubchinskiy’s photographic publication Youth Hotel, which features semi-naked Russian youths reclining and socialising around Moscow.
Similar imagery appears in fashion titles, most unashamedly in the likes of Fanzine137 and EY! Magateen by Spanish photographer Luis Venegas, who makes no secret of using fashion image-making as a tool to celebrate the objects of his attraction, frequently boys in their late teens. Photographers Brett Lloyd and Alasdair McLellan have also explored the boy as attractive and sexual being within a fashion context, making pictures that comment both on menswear movements and also on their personal ideals of male beauty. In mainstream titles, 'firsts' seem to be particularly intriguing to image-makers – portrayals of nervous kisses, stolen moments and urgent embraces turn the reader from fashion consumer into voyeur.
Objects featured within this section of the Mad About The Boy exhibition:
- Brett Lloyd, Measuring Up, 2012. Courtesy of Brett Lloyd.
- Brett Lloyd, Dario And Laurence, Dust Magazine, Spring/Summer 2012. Courtesy of Brett Lloyd.
- Brett Lloyd, CockSucker MJ, Paris Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2012.
Courtesy of Brett Lloyd.
- Alasdair McLellan, The Perfect Kiss (12-inch Version), 2012. Courtesy of Alasdair McLellan.
- Joseph Szabo, Almost Grown, 1978. Courtesy of Central Saint Martins Library, University of the Arts London.
- Minoru Shimizu and Wolfgang Tillmans, Truth Study Centre, 2005. Courtesy of Fashion Space Gallery.
- Gosha Rubchinskiy, Youth Hotel, 2015. Courtesy of IDEA.