Did society make men afraid of touch?

Zoë Zimmerman is an American Photographer, with a Mexican background, skill in raging antique photographic processes such as platinum prints and albumen prints.  Smithson, the author of the article regarding the artist states, that in her series titled “Of Men” the artists analyses “touch and platonic intimacy” between males, that their boundaries and how these parameters have been established by society itself. Zimmerman believes that American society, has acquired a negative view of “platonic male affection” making touch between males only acceptable if it’s in an aggressive context and not in a nurturing context. With this series the artist is trying to question why this happens, questioning if it’s due to the idea that the male touch is considered as “inheritably sexual” therefore implying homosexual behaviour, and is it restricted due to homophobia? (Smithson, 2014)

The author Aline Smithson, states that Zoë Zimmerman challenges our perception of where such physical contact between men is socially allowed. In the first group of photos, Zimmerman takes inspiration from a 1930s Red Cross First Aid Manual in which it displays men aiding men in situations of physical vulnerability, but in her series, even though there is physical contact between the two males, the facial expression and body language that is not indicating any level of intimacy. This group is basically representing the type of physical contact that is allowed by society between males, to touch but keep isolated (Smithson, 2014).

Zoë Zimmerman, 2014, Group 1. [Photography].

In the second group of photographs, Zimmerman re-enacts photos from vintage medical texts with the difference that they are more focused on a more direct and intimate type of touch. The two images are now taken out of the context of medical examination, allowing the viewer to focus more on the act of touch between the two males. The aim of this group was to portray intimacy, without referring to any type of eroticism but just as a nurturing behaviour. It reflects on the modern fear that men have developed regarding physical intimacy when it doesn’t even relate to homosexuality or any form of sexual interaction. The images serve more as an idea of example of how men could act between themselves once overcoming such irrational fears (Smithson, 2014).

Zoë Zimmerman, 2014, Group 2. [Photography].

In the third group of the series, the artist shifts her focus onto society itself, the viewers included, and the preconceived judgment we have regarding fraternal physical intimacy. A simple act of two men holding each other’s hand which may cause a sense of awkwardness and in some individuals even irritation and disgust. With a simple but effective visual message, Zimmerman is pushing the viewers to question why that might be. The models themselves exhibit, such as the two teenage boys in sports gear, a form of struggle that might be caused by the same preconceived that dictates that such physical contact is unacceptable but the images, even if the models seem uncomfortable, still draws your attention to them. With this group of photographs the artist is not trying to create a fantasy that allows males to be comfortable physically, but rather question why males are uncomfortable displaying physical intimacy in the first place.

Zoë Zimmerman, 2014, Group 3. [Photography].

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