William Lakin’s Latest Photos Redefine the Masculine Discourse

Bedfordshire born Lakin hopes that this latest series presents“things in a way which appear colder and more objective to help the viewer question the veracity of the systems and hierarchies we are used to.” 

Lakin expresses how his photography has grown from a “very superficial and cliched idea of what makes good photography” in his teenage years to now a more subversive approach in which “photography has grown to be more about ideas and problem solving […] I like starting with a subject and thinking of different ways I can approach it.”

Entitled Five Minutes After Birth, the series, and Lakin’s recent work in general, opts for a limited colour palette as the North London-based photographer prefers to “make images more graphic, or images which isolate simple gestures as opposed to images that are colourful and overly emotive.” 

The series is a more critical approach on photography than we may be used to, backed by Lakin’s academic research on social hierarchies, particularly of gender studies. “My critical approach rejects the idea that these social norms are set in stone,” William explains. “Presenting things in a way which appear colder and more objective helps the viewer question the veracity of the systems and hierarchies we are used to.” In turn, Lakin’s work makes us, the viewer and members of society, question our consumption of media examples of gender. “I think it is also important to watch and think about reality TV shows like Love Island,” he adds on his research. “They inevitably inform us on things like current beauty standards and expectations in relationships.”

Five Minutes After Birth is essentially an academic collection of photographs. Each frame reminds the viewer that gender is performative – a construct fabricated by society and sociopolitics and then and culturally reproduced. This perspective was pioneered by academic Judith Butler’s seminal work on performativity in the 1990s and Lakin cites this as inspiration. “The project initially started off as an illustrated essay, but I quickly moved away from this approach when I found the essay was stifling the imagery,” William says. “As a broader body of work, it exists as a series of photographs, text pieces, a video piece, a series of cyanotypes and some archival work.” 

In his definition of masculinity, Lakin’s series acknowledges how broad the spectrum truly is; “I want to communicate how ambiguous the term ‘masculine’ really is, highlighting how many different things it claims to account for and how difficult it is to give a personal account of what masculinity means.”

The photographs opt for a focus on gesture rather than conform to masculine ideals. “I like isolating gestures or taking body language out of context because I think it helps break down the ways we view and communicate with one another and dissociates it from continuous ‘natural’ ways of being,” the photographer explains. Many of the images also contain an element of suspended balance or a gesture to movement, which William implemented to “communicate the tension and anxiety inherent in performing and monitoring these identities.”

William is now looking for opportunities to exhibit the work. “I have a couple of exhibitions coming up and I am very fortunate to have been selected for the Photo Open Up open call which will be the most comprehensive exhibition of the work

William Lakin: Five Minutes After Birth (Copyright © William Lakin, 2021)




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