THE FROWN PROJECT
Representations of masculinity: lines of wisdom, expression and experience
This is a project on the representation of gender and expression. The first part of this project relates to images of masculinity, specifically regarding masculinity and expression. The selection focuses on frowns and forehead lines. I started photographing this aspect of masculinity in 2009 and the images here are edited from a larger collection. I use found imagery from magazines and billboards and various media from the arenas of film, fashion, music, politics, advertising and the arts. The mix is diverse, also including religious and political figures, athletes, philosophers, dancers and comedians as well as signs of expression in painting and graphic art. My sources are all around me – on the underground, on buses, billboards, newspapers, magazines, book covers. They adorn shop windows and are reflected on building facades.
I would like people to draw their own conclusions as to the ubiquity of frown and forehead lines when it comes to desirable images of men. Part of my fascination is due to the entitlement and permission of male expression in opposition to its absence when it comes to women, and the qualities I believe I am supposed to attribute to the men represented: connotations of interiority, intelligence, gravitas, experience, passion, etc. The mystic reading of forehead lines has a tradition across many cultures; forehead lines are associated with wisdom, character and experience. They are “legible”. In my research and collection I only have a handful of female frowns, when it comes to desirable images of women, mainly drawn from images of female flamenco dancers. The airbrushing of female expression is not news but to me there is something surreal, hilarious and fascinating about the freedom and normality to be represented with frown and forehead lines.
I will shortly be adding examples of expression in women and comparing the contexts and connotations.
1n 2014 a selection from The Frown Project was featured in the Uncertain States magazine, as well as adorning the cover.