Meet The Fashion Photographer Who Created 'The EveryMan Project' To Show All Men Just How Beautiful They Are

"This project is geared towards creating a safe space that I hope will serve to liberate men worldwide from self-hate."

Fashion Rule Breakers is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Each month, we profile a fashion designer, model, organization, or icon who is a fashion rule breaker — someone who acts outside mainstream industry standards to make a positive difference.

We all deserve to be told our bodies are worth loving  — no matter who we are or what we look like. And while women are often the center of conversations about body positivity, we seldom talk about how men are affected by messages in the media telling them to look or act a certain way. 



To give men a space in the conversation about body positivity, photographer Tarik Carroll created The EveryMan Project — a book featuring photographs "meant to challenge society's standards of what the REAL male aesthetic is through the lens of re-imagined iconic 90's fashion ads." In the photos, the men, who are of all different backgrounds and body types, model in expressive poses and outfits against backdrops, celebrating their styles and attitudes in every frame. The photos also include bold makeup, such as red and white face paint, as well as jewelry and — of course — their smiles. 

By opening conversations about body positivity to include men, and creating fashion shoots where they can express themselves and celebrate their bodies, Carroll is being a Fashion Rule Breaker.

Carroll, who started the project in 2016 after working in the fashion industry, says he was inspired to create The EveryMan Project after hearing many co-workers, models, and friends voice insecurities that mirrored his own. In early childhood, Carroll says he was immediately labeled as different for being outspoken, headstrong, vibrant, eccentric, and Black, and that comparing himself to others made him self-conscious. Learning that he wasn't alone in having these feelings was empowering. 

"It wasn't until I started working in the fashion industry that I started to see through the '4th wall,' " he writes in a mission statement. "Upon learning the powers of retouching, I started to realize that perfection and beauty are purely subjective concepts. Once I started to build friendships and working relationships with various models, I quickly learned that body image issues didn't discriminate. Listening to male models with bodies that rival greek gods tell me that they too suffer from body image issues was equally eyeopening and jarring. Hearing damaging childhood stories of isolation, fear and obsessive self scrutiny made me realize that as men, we had more in common than I previously believed. Most of us had been programmed with this cycle of self-hate beginning at the playground; in a space where we were most impressionable and vulnerable."

Seeing he shared the pain and struggle of men he admired so much reminded Carroll that it's OK to be vulnerable. 

"From the beginning, I was labeled 'different' which is something that has followed me throughout my life. At 6 years old, being 'different' felt like a curse. But now at 29, being 'different' feels more like a blessing.

"Hopefully, this project will cause a shift in consciousness in the relationship that we have with our bodies as men," Carroll tells A Plus.

In The EveryMan Project, men express themselves through the clothes they wear, their makeup, poses, etc. Being featured in such an empowering photo shoot will hopefully help models and viewers alike see past dangerous societal messages that box men into defined gender roles. 

"From day one we have been boxed in by these social constructs of what it means to be a real 'man,' " Carroll tells A Plus. "Society taught us that boys wear blue, play sports and that we had to be tough, strong, prideful and stoic. We have been programmed to think that talking about our bodies is not 'manly' and would make us victims."

Carroll believes much of these distorted views on "what it means to be a man" are toxic and studies support the idea that such messages can be emotionally and physically damaging to men. In 2014, The Atlantic referenced a study from JAMA Pediatrics, which found that 18 percent of boys were concerned about their weight and appearance, and that this could lead to depression and high-risk behaviors, such as binge-drinking.  

But even in the face of such hardship, men often keep silent as they have been programmed to "man up" and not show emotion. 

"It is often seen as too weak, and equated with weakness or as being too feminine. The EveryMan Project wants to change that — by showing that for one, there's nothing wrong with connecting with feminine energy if you identify as male, and [two,] expressing emotions actually makes us stronger as a society."

Thus, the project reminds men that they are good enough and that it is OK to be open with their emotions. 

"I am creating The EveryMAN Project to empower and inspire. This project is geared towards creating a safe space that I hope will serve to liberate men worldwide from self-hate," Carroll writes in his mission statement." 

"I want to challenge society’s obsession with hyper-masculinity and perfection by capturing men/male identifying from all backgrounds, orientations, gender identifications, personal classifications, races and colors. This is a call to all. This is a visual conversation about inclusion and diversity, which I intend to translate into an actual conversation about the positivity that begins within."

While shooting the photos, Carroll says there was a sense of freedom and liberation. 

"Being on set felt like a celebration; a celebration of bodies and the amazing spirits they house," Caroll says, adding that he has a close relationship with the models in the photographs, including Christopher Cespedes, Lamar Shambley, Marquis Neal, and Jair D'Cano. For this shoot, Carroll says he was inspired by a Calvin Klein ad from the '90s, and looked to reimagine it with his mission in mind. 

Afterward, Carroll says the participants all reacted to the photos differently:

"For some of the models, it was their first time being photographed and seeing themselves portrayed in such a way that they hadn't seen before," he says. For others, "it was a very introspective moment, prompting them to look within and truly accept, love and celebrate themselves as they are, which is what body positivity is all about."

Carroll says the response to The EveryMan Project — particularly from those within the women's body positivity movement — has been overwhelming. Caroll notes that men can learn a lot from women who have spoken out about similar issues and find strength from it, too.

"Beginning this project out of a place of love from everyone involved helped launch it into [what] it is now—men everywhere around the world are connecting."



Carroll says he hopes those in the fashion industry see The EveryMan Project and recognize that all bodies are good bodies. 

"Maybe some [people] in the industry already know that but aren't willing to break the standard," he says. "I also want the fashion industry to truly understand the power that they have to change lives and truly create a shift in consciousness."

"The time is now."

For those who want to participate in Carroll's community, check out the project's website and share your stories, too. The project is currently looking for models for upcoming shoots and a video documentary. 

You can check out more from Carroll's photo series below:



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