Photographer Angus Malcolm is breaking the barriers of toxic masculinity
The rule book isn’t clear. You leave the gym floor and enter the locker room understanding there is a rule book. An older gentleman who just finished a racquetball game stands by his locker naked, no shame in how the passing years have embraced gravity. A skinny teenager longs to gain muscle and sheepishly hides behind his towel, glancing at more muscular men that surround him.
Drying off by a mirror is a man with confidence that seems unattainable to some. He shows off every muscle surrounding an aesthetically impressive physique. Leaving the shower, a closeted gay guy, ashamed by his attraction to men, wonders if he followed every rule: don’t look at the others, don’t make eye contact, don’t be found out.
Angus Malcolm, activist, humanitarian and photographer, with a heart full of passion and talent is changing these impressions of toxic masculinity. His vehicle for success? An annual calendar celebrating the male body. The calendar, originally intended to raise money for a university rowing team, gained momentum with a significant gay male following. Now, the project has grown into a movement allowing all types of men and women to celebrate the male body without shame or inhibition. With camera in hand, a group of naked straight men as his subject, Malcolm is on a mission to tear down barriers of what society calls “masculine,” and shares a message of inclusion that is inspiring.
Thanks for taking the time with us!
Angus Malcolm: Thank you! I’m delighted to be able to speak to our supporters in New Jersey; I know we’ve got a lot of them. We couldn’t be where we are without our supporters. We’re grateful to your readers for all the help!
You’ve done a lot of work in LGBT activism, what drives your passion?
AM: My life experience is the source of my passion! I grew up in Northern Ireland in a religious community at a time when being LGBT was a very difficult thing. I’ve seen how things have gotten much better for some people, but for others they are just as bad, maybe even worse.
What inspired your work with the Warwick rowers?
AM: My interest in photography was entirely about looking at men naked, and I realized that I had issues around looking at men naked. I wanted to look at man naked and I felt guilty about it, embarrassed. I wanted to address it because I felt it was about the struggles I endured coming to terms with my own sexuality. I came out when I was 19, but never felt full ownership of my sexuality. Officially I was gay, but a part of myself was still in the closet hiding. Photography was my way of trying to deal with how I could look at men and how a broader society could look at men. They are very different rules — how we look at men and how we look at women. It annoys me, for example, how shampoo commercials always have a naked woman in the shower and never a naked guy. I thought, “I want to do something about that. I want to change my society.” If we are going to look at women naked, we should also look at men naked, otherwise its abuse.
So, how did it start?
AM: This is the 10th anniversary. Our first calendar we shot in 2009. It began because I met one of the rowers in London. I said, “Hey so you’re a part of this rowing team. Have you ever thought of doing one of those calendars?” At this time, lots of student universities were doing these naked calendars to raise money for their group or charity. It happened to be that the club was very short of money and he responded, “We have thought of doing one!” I said, “I’ll shoot it for you.
A simple start led you into a revolution!
AM: I’d like to think it’s revolutionary!
Has this calendar helped to heal any past struggle in your own journey?
AM: Very much. I think I grew up with a sense if I look at a straight man naked, I’d be doing it without his permission, and I’d have to in secret, because he would not “allow” it. When I was 13 years old, I came to realize that my sexuality, whatever it was, was not what was considered so impossible by the society I lived in. They had no rules. It was ok for guys to shower together and girls to shower together, and not for guys and girls to shower together. Heterosexuality was the only sexuality that existed. My sexuality was so insignificant that they didn’t need to have a rule for it. I’ve come to realize through the Warwick Rowers that straight guys can be respectful of my sexuality. They don’t have to have sex with me to do that, but they can say, “I’m going to take my clothes off, and as a guy I realize this is probably quite nice for you. And you know what, I’m good with that.”
The Warwick Rowers Calendar has left a big impact on admirers. In its stand against homophobia, do you have a story about a changing perspective outside of our community?
AM: When I started this calendar, there was absolutely no way that the guys would have done full frontal nudity. Six years later, they were ready. I think that would not have been possible without the journey we’ve gone on together. This was really a part of a group of young heterosexual men deciding to do something that is really quite intimate in support of LGBT advancement. They’ve learned how to be more relaxed with each other. If you’re not here to have fun, then what’s the fucking point?
In the United States we are struggling to be a kinder, more tolerant world, what message of encouragement can you offer?
AM: Much of how we have defined and pursued an agenda that supports LGBT freedom has come from the United States. That will never change. It’s a fact of history that the States lead the world in LGBT freedom in the last 100 years. Within the modern Western era, the States have led the way in LGBT advancement, because that is what America is about. It’s such a fundamental part of your country. I don’t think one idiot is going to destroy it overnight.
How can we stay connected to you?
AM: Join the conversation because we’ve got big plans for the future. We want to reflect the diversity in the world. We want to invite men from a much wider constituency to joint the movement. Oh, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! Check out warwickrowers.org!