For far too long, stereotypical forms of masculinity have excluded the ability to show or express emotions. Many young men are taught to keep their feelings hidden below the surface to achieve the nebulous status of becoming a man. Yet some seek to live outside these rigid gender boundaries, expressing their bodies and their souls in whatever way they desire. Photographer Nir Arieli captures such subjects in his stunning series "Inframen."
"Inframen" is a photography project centered around male dancers, a subset of the population that eschews gender norms in favor of art and passion. Turning their bodies into vehicles for graceful and delicate movements, Arieli's subjects create an alternate, and devastatingly beautiful, portrait of masculinity. For his black-and-white series, Arieli uses an infrared photography technique that brings out the hidden marks left behind on dancers' skin. Blemishes, scars and stretch marks come to the body's surface, serving as a symbol for interiority reaching out.
Through "Inframen," the viewer becomes a sort of voyeur, gaining access to the underbelly of a dancer's experience -- something that normally remains hidden beneath layers of flesh. "The dancers, with their calloused exterior and sensitive character, represent the tenuous relationship between the strength of the body and the fragility of the soul," Arieli explains in his artist statement.
The correlation between beauty and bruises aligns the craft of dance with the pain of emotional strife.
The following portraits show the ability of movement to penetrate even a still photograph. Through Arieli's piercing infrared gaze, the dancers gain an otherworldly presence while representing the struggles that we all face -- dancers or not. Even without an audience present, Arieli's subjects turn the camera into a witness, showing how performance pulses through their very being.
The following photos will inspire you to break down gender norms, whether through the power of dance or simply expressing your hopes and fears without shame. Behold, 10 stunning dancers who are using their body and soul to challenge the current understanding of masculinity.
For more of Arieli's work, check out his gentle portraits of male muses and dizzying depictions of dancers in motion. "Inframen" will show from January 16 until March 8, 2014 at Daniel Cooney in New York.