Taking a Leap for Male Nude Project Promoting Body Positivity

Taking a Leap for Male Nude Project Promoting Body Positivity

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When I spoke with photographer Anthony Manieri, he was sitting at home in the middle of editing images from a routine event before preparing to fly to Los Angeles to do another shoot for a personal project that has been more successful than he ever anticipated. He didn’t expect a one-off shoot to turn into a personal project taking him around the world creating portraits of diverse, mostly gay men to promote positive body imagery.

A self-taught professional photographer based in Toronto, Canada, Manieri gained notoriety with his wedding photography (he’s in Martha Stewart this month), but these days he shoots everything from food to fashion to portraits to events, only doing the occasional wedding. A new project has taken most of his focus. He now flies around the world creating black and white portraits of nude men in an effort to promote and celebrate body positivity, and he calls the project “Arrested Movement.”

These days, there seem to be countless campaigns related to positive body image for women. From corporations spending millions on advertising portraying “real women” to photographers offering boudoir sessions for the “everyday lady,” there’s a cultural shift emerging around what it means to be a “real woman.” So Manieri decided to do something different.

Whenever you hear about body positivity in the media, it’s always directed at women. And rightfully so, because they get a lot of bullshit sent their way… But you know, we suffer from body issues as well. I feel like straight men suffer from it a little more silently than gay men do, because when you’re in the gay community, you’re judged by the way you look.

Manieri’s life went through a turbulent time a few years ago, and it prompted him to begin studying ancient arts of meditation and mindfulness.

My life kind of shifted a few years ago. I sold my company, my dad passed, I kind of took a couple of years off, tried to heal and in doing so I gained some weight … and I threw myself into spirituality, meditation, and mindfulness.

Around this time, he also began to study the work of Masaru Emoto, a Japanese researcher who photographed frozen water crystals.

The gist of it is, [Emoto] would take two mason jars, fill them with water, label one love, label one hate. To the one labeled love, he would profess love to it, saying ‘you’re amazing, you’re beautiful, you’re wonderful,’ and he would play Mozart to it. To the other one, he would tell it things like ‘you’re ugly, you’re terrible, you’re worthless,’  and play things like heavy death metal to it. He would take droplets of water from each, put them on a slide, freeze them, and look at them under a microscope. The one that was professed love to looked like a beautiful crystal. The one that was professed hate to it, looked like cancer. So his research was basically saying that because we are made up of almost 70% of water, if we’re negative to ourselves, or negative to another person, our bodies are alive and they hear that, down to the molecular level. . . . literally everything about that kind of clicked on the airplane. Everything in my past experiences, twenty five years of dealing with people not liking their nose in pictures, it all kind of fluttered in my brain and all kind of made sense, and I thought, ‘this is what I’m gonna do.’

On an airplane heading to London two years ago, he had an idea. He hadn’t been doing a lot of artistic work for himself, and had been in an endless cycle of client work, not leaving any room for anything personal.

Back home in Toronto around Christmas, he asked a few people to participate in a shoot, but hoped to fill a whole day to make the studio rental worth the cost. A Facebook post and a few hours later, he had enough volunteers to fill a two-day, twenty-hour shoot. He was astonished.

Manieri began asking his subjects why they came in. They all had relatively similar things to say, and some were going to great lengths to get there, even driving hours through a snowstorm, not considering turning around and giving up.

Why did they come in?

‘Because this is important,’ they said. Some men were coming up to me, telling me they were ill, and they wanted proof that they existed, that they really wanted to be a part of this project. I remember excusing myself and I went outside and I just started sobbing. My assistant came out and asked what was wrong, and I said, ‘This is just supposed to be an art project.’ This is affecting their lives. I’m happy that’s happening, but I didn’t expect this.

News of the project started moving worldwide. Manieri began getting messages from mainland China, South America, Europe, Russia, and elsewhere. He didn’t expect the project to gain international momentum so quickly.  All of the men who’ve participated have been LGBTQ, except for one. Even though Manieri is gay himself, he doesn’t limit the project exclusively to gay men. But that seems to be the where this message has hit a nerve most.

“It feels like there’s purpose to this project. I can read what people are feeling, and I can actually see it.  When I’m photographing them, there’s a moment when I feel like I’m holding space for them. Don’t get me wrong: some guys come in because they want to be photographed well, nude. But the majority that come in, they’re coming in for the message… it sounds stupid, but if it helps change one person’s perception of themselves, then that’s great. It’s helped me, completely.”

On the photography side, Manieri shoots Canon, and since he sold his studio, he just rents studio spaces and lighting equipment wherever he goes. It’s a challenge to keep the images consistent in the different locations. Everything is shot on a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, tethered to his camera. He tries to make the images as cohesive as possible, but it’s difficult when shooting in different studios every time.

As far as posing goes, he got the idea for dancer poses from the image that started the project. He was photographing a man in London, and at the end of the session, he jumped in the air. Manieri asked if he would do that, again, but without his clothes on. He agreed. The man used to be a dancer, and when thinking about this project, Manieri decided to play off of that, since there was a reaction to that image. He used that as a starting point.

So when these men are walking in, some of them are very burly, man’s men, and I have to say, ‘OK, you have to point your toes. I don’t care about your penis — it’s about what you’re showing me in your face.’ I’m looking at the lines in the body, and I want the images to be stoic and celebratory at the same time.

For now, Manieri is trying to figure out where this all leads. He is self-funding the project, and has spent over $40,000 of his own money on it so far, but has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback on the project. He just got back from a shoot in Los Angeles, and heads to Chicago and Dallas next, followed by the east coast of Canada, and then to Europe for the summer. He hopes he’ll be done after that, but people are asking him to travel all over the world to do these shoots. If that’s to happen, he’s going to have to find a way to start making an income off of the project. A plan for an uncensored book is in the works, along with some gallery exhibitions. “It’s not about the money, but if I could get some of that back, that would be amazing.” He’s already photographed over 270 men so far, so he thinks it may turn into a two-book project. He’s also asked other LGBTQ artists about contributing to the book — and they’ve all said yes — by giving them 2-3 images from the series and having the artists reproduce them in their own style. So far, he has a comic book artist, a caricature artist, a watercolor artist, an oil painter, and a sketch artist.

I’m pumped about this. I look forward to see where this goes. If I could just do this right now, that’s all I would do.

Body positivity, or a lack thereof, comes in many forms, and Manieri's images certainly show how the body shapes, colors, and ages of men are just as diverse as those of women -- and are just as beautiful. 

All images used with permission of Anthony Manieri.

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62 Comments

Sergio Tello's picture

unnecessary censorship.

Adam Ottke's picture

If you're referring to the NSFW status of this, please understand we have that feature out of concern for our readers who might be in more conservative environments while reading the site (i.e. work) and would rather not anything such as nude figures (as beautiful as they might be) popping up on their screens at an inopportune time (say, as the boss is walking by). I also wouldn't call an NSFW tag that requires an extra click, "censorship," since it's still pretty accessible. In any case, hopefully that means you enjoyed/appreciate the artist's work and simply want others to enjoy the same. Glad to hear it.

Terry Hernlund's picture

Nothing. But shaming someone based purely on their aesthetic isn't going to help that problem. It'd probably make it worse actually. Being overweight/obese is a health problem and should be addressed from that perspective. Making someone feel like crap is rarely a motivator.

Cody Schultz's picture

It is one thing if you are overweight to the point where you cannot function normally in life (i.e. My 600 Pound Life) or where your hygiene is suffering tremendously. However, I would not necessarily call any of the pictured men fat or overweight. No, they are not anywhere near body-builder stature nor are they what is considered "beautiful" in society's standards, but then again, who really is?

I see it as such: if you are happy in your own skin and are not adversely affecting anyone else in the world, then your body is your body. You are the only one who may be the judge of whether you need to lose weight or not. If you are having serious health problems or you feel as though you need to lose weight, then you need to lose weight. Otherwise, what the hell does it matter?

“if you are happy in your own skin and are not adversely affecting anyone else in the world, then your body is your body”.

Strongly disagree with that statement because you seem to forget how healthcare systems work. I absolutely hate the fact that I have to pay for other people’s bad health choices.

Anonymous's picture

No, Bob, being fat is not a "psychological problem", although it certainly can be in that consumption of fatty and sugary foods can be (and often is) addictive - in this regard one should examine the broader socioeconomic context in light of the Rat Park study. Specifically, there are broader and more fundamental issues pertaining to the lack of meaning derived from consumption.

It is, however, interesting to note that nowhere do you mention urban planning, in terms of the fact that we are encouraged to live sedentary lives - just look at how many walk or ride bicycles in preference to driving.

Equally, it would behoove you to reflect upon government policy with regard to promotion of sugar and meats, over promotion of friuts and vegetables.

To simply put out the notion that this is as simple as "a psychological' disorder simply demonstrates how grossly ignorant you are of a problem that is manfestly complex.

Anonymous's picture

I wouldn't quit your day job, Bob.

Some of us go to university, others *looks pointedly at you* endlessly vomit their empty opinions on social media.

Anonymous's picture

You seem to have wasted your time and money, re university; you are strikingly ignorant of any nuance or broader issues (maybe you did a STEM degree, at least then you'd have an excuse).

I'm sorry, but I really don't think you are worth my time, or anyone else's.

Anonymous's picture

Are you retarded?

Seriously, I gave you a number of contextual issues in my initial response; and your response to me was nothing more than 'nuh ugh', followed by an lame reitteration of your already stated superficial opinion.

I also love the way you have shifted the goal posts here.

Let me guess; you did engineering?

Go and waste someone else's time.

Anonymous's picture

Engineering is a "subject"?

You've been to university?

Cool story bro

Leigh Miller's picture

lol you have a real issue with bodies man...

Leigh Miller's picture

Have issue with mentally ill, physically challenged and all that too?

Maybe someone has a problem with your looks...maybe if less people looked like you do it would be a nicer planet to live on?

Michael Holst's picture

It's your own logic

Michael Holst's picture

Being fat is not always the result of over indulgence. There are biological reasons why some people are more prone to storing fat on their bodies. Or what about people who have ironic injuries that keep them from being active? One of the problems I see in your approach to chastising the overweight is that you think being an ass to people is going to get them to accept your perspective.

Studies have shown that negative reinforcement is less effective than positive reinforcement. So encouraging people to feel good about themselves while also promoting an a more inclusive environment might give people the support they need to lose weight. How do you expect these people to get out and be active if you want them to feel like shit because you had to look at them. That's counter productive. Make them feel comfortable and valued as PEOPLE and then offer positive encouragement to be as healthy as possible.

I think you've mistaken a positive body movement to mean keeping fat people fat. You might wanna make a few reevaluations.

Michael Holst's picture

"The amount of calories consumed determines everyone's weight. Fat doesn't come from thin air."

Good job Bob! You understand how things don't just happen by magic. Clearly you have a good understanding of how our individual biologies work..... /sar

"You mean like that thin and fit man in the wheel chair that Allen Morris posted?"

Are you trying to use one person as a representative for everyone?...Do you like to pick cherries?

"I'm not the one calling people names, am I? You're doing that. It's also not my perspective. It is a biological reality that if you consume too many calories you become fat."

I never said you were calling anyone names. Again, it's almost as if you think there's a one size fits all to fitness. Look up how thyroids work.

"Only in the upside down world of political correctness is the negative considered positive. No, people like you are the ones that are giving negative reinforcement by telling them it's OK to be fat."

You're missing the point completely.

"No one should feel good about being fat. That is not something to promote and celebrate. That doesn't mean they also need to hate themselves, which is the only thing people like you have concluded from my remarks. It's an irrational conclusion."

That's not what I said... Well it's pretty easy to take that from your remarks when you are doing the same to everyone else who hints at the idea that maybe we shouldn't make people feel like shit... There's a middle ground and I've been standing in it the entire time.

"If it was truly about a positive body image then you would only see thin and fit people."

So now you're all about diversity and inclusion? You can't use that argument when it's convenient for your point and then say its politically correct nonsense when others use it. Plus someone already showed you that there were fit people included so you're just choosing to be ignorant to prop up your point.

As usual you use a lot of self defeating logic. It's entertaining though.

Michael Holst's picture

"Explain yourself, if you can, because that's a nonsensical reply to what I said."

You pointed out that the project didn't include (inclusion) a wider variety of body weights (diversity) to make you not so triggered.

Sounds like snowflake talk to me.

Maybe instead of telling everyone what you have moral problems with, you give us a solution to obesity. It sounds like you're not ok with giving people dignity and respect because they're fat. I might need a refresher on your point of view. Most people (in this thread) agree that one solution is to help these people feel comfortable in broad daylight so they might not feel scared of ridicule as they try to be active. It's not like you lose the weight overnight. No one has said its healthier to be fat. You seem to make this incorrect assumption that just because people aren't shaming the overweight they're praising them for being so. You're taking a black and white approach to obesity which is what most of us are saying you're wrong about. But I'll let you have the last word as usual Bobby Boy. I'm sure you've got something dense to say.

I have an issue with PROMOTING the "positivity" of mental issues.

Leigh Miller's picture

Ya I know...we should just snuff out people with mental health issues instead of dealing with them right?

I even wrote with CAPS were is the problem. You're not helping anyone by telling them their condition is beautiful and they should "celebrate" it by appearing naked in public. That's not helping, that's alienating.

Seems my comment got attached to the wrong post. Sorry.

What exactly is your issue here? Does your concern emanate from a sincere desire to rid the world of disease and to see people live their best possible lives? If so, I would argue again that there are better ways to do this than take cheap shots at small-scale and well intentioned art projects. Is it something from personal experience - do you have a loved one who has suffered from ill health as a result of being overweight? Did you suffer from weight issues as a child? Is it an issue of economics: e.g. that the number of overweight people in America (the world?) put an undue strain on healthcare systems, thus driving up insurance costs for everyone, etc.? Should we all be striving to fit an idealized and media-defined body standard? Help us understand the source of your very deep-seated concerns; or is it just that you think fat people are ugly, mentally ill losers and you don't want to have to look at them?

I'm not sure why I'm bothering - I'm not going to change your mind - but here goes:

"These kinds of projects should be denounced for there is nothing "well" about promoting fatness."

"Denounced"? Really? These projects are not promoting or celebrating fatness. They are providing a small space for people who don't normally get to see themselves depicted in a society obsessed with youth and difficult to achieve beauty standards. This is what most people's bodies look like: fragile, flawed, wrinkled, saggy, stretch-marked, physically imperfect. Why shouldn't they be seen too? Some of the best art has come from depictions of human frailty, not perfection. If you prefer perfection, you have plenty of options elsewhere. Why waste so much energy on this?

"I've addressed what needs to be done for people to stay, become and remain thin. It's not rocket science."

You are clearly an expert in good old-fashioned, rugged American self-reliance. The problem is that what works for you will not necessarily work for everyone else. I'm not an expert, but I can find plenty of evidence from people who are that showi that the causes of obesity are multi-factored and cannot be reduced to something as simple as lack of will power. You have yet to acknowledge this evidence.

" Those that wish to make money off of the misery of fat people and those that wish to alleviate their guilt would like you to think otherwise."

I'm pretty sure these photographers are not making a lot of money from these projects. You'd be better off targeting the snake oil salesmen working in the weight-loss industry. Now those folks are making a lot of money off the misery of fat people.

"Why would I need that to be the case to be against the poor health that is the result of being fat?"

Just trying to understand where you're coming from.

"That's an obvious problem so that should be something everyone is concerned about. No one should have to pay for the self inflicted harm that others do to themselves. You can add smoking to that."

OK

"Media defined? At the rate we are going the new media defined body standard will be being fat...."

Seriously Bob, do you really believe that?

"Nothing wrong with ideals."

Agreed. Always good to aim high. Maybe the people in these photos are also aiming high. Maybe this a starting point for them. You don't know anything about their experiences or what path they're on.

"My country used to be filled with them and it thrived."

Your country remains filled with ideals, it's just that now there are competing ideals. Your country will continue to thrive because of this diversity. Competition is good, right?

"First, you do not equal "us." Adding numbers to your comments doesn't give them any more validity."

Increasing the validity of my comments was not my intention. Only that there are quite a few people who disagree with your positions here and I thought you could help me (and them) understand your point of view. I will save you the time of typing out your standard response here: "Outside of mathematical realities and equations, numbers don't equal right".

"I've already stated that being fat is unhealthy and unattractive, so the obvious takeaway from that is that I want to help people be healthy and attractive. Deep down that is what most people want."

Yes, most (if not all) people would prefer to be healthy and if you'd just stick to the health issues I'd be more willing to take you seriously (even if your focus on causation is wrong). But your pronouncements on the unattractiveness of fat people border on a sort of pathological repulsion that suggests this is the real issue for you. You also overlook the reality that people are drawn to different body types. What is considered physically attractive to one person (or culture), is repulsive to another.

"Unfortunately people like you, and others in the comments, take that as meaning fat people are not worth anything at all. If I didn't care about such people I would simply ridicule and mock them. Obviously I am not doing that."

You may not be mocking them outright, but your lack of sensitivity seems to undercut your stated desire to help. Tough love doesn't work on everyone.

Anonymous's picture

"Of corse such projects are celebrating and promoting fatness, otherwise you would also have thin people depicted in them."

Here's a thin person from the project:

Due to your own self-imposed line of reasoning–quoted above)–your argument regarding this project is now invalid.

I await your revocation. But you'll probably just backtrack/twist/ignore this.

Anonymous's picture

So you went with backtracking. Interesting choice. I knew you wouldn’t state that you were wrong.

There’s nothing amusing about a person in a wheelchair.

And BTW, you don’t get to decide what is trolling on this forum. And those who do are ok with my posts, so quit accusing me.

Michael Holst's picture

Bob wears a lot of hats here. He's the Troll Police and the PC fighter. An alternative social justice warrior for lack of a better term.

Anonymous's picture

Alt-SJW: love it!

I guess you need a lot of hats when you have such a big head.

You forgot "Bob Singer" and "Vlad Radu", among others.

Anonymous's picture

I'm sick of you attacking me and lying about me on this forum.

I feel bad for you and your obvious issues, but stop the accusations.

Anonymous's picture

Look in the mirror, Bob. Nearly everything you just posted (minus the number of posts, which for you is over 2600! now) can be said about you.

You are the troll pretending to be the victim.

You’re the one who can’t stay on topic.

You bring down this site’s forums, and you’re too delusional, egotistical, or some combination of the two, to see it.

I plan to keep warning others about your sad methods.

And this is my last response to you.

Leigh Miller's picture

When someone shows you who they are, believe them. He has the occasional good contribution and we shouldn't try to stop him when he doesn't. It's called democracy.

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