Life & Culture

Photos that Show Different Kinds of Masculinity in London

For her series entitled Homme Libre, Carla Borel turns her lens on the capital’s men

Carla Borel herself has had an interesting life, having been born in Paris and raised in Las Vegas and a village in Hampshire. Her mum was a Bond girl in Diamonds are Forever, and her dad worked at the Moulin Rouge. She finally settled in London in 1997 and took up photography around the same time, using the medium to explore “themes of transience, identity, community, isolation and loneliness”. This project, titled Homme Libre, comprises a series of portraits of various men in her life. It’s a diverse crowd – white, black, straight, gay, cis, trans – but while they come from all walks of life, Borel chose to shoot them on the same roll of film, in the same doorway, wearing the same t-shirt. Here, alongside a preview of the series which is on show at the A22 Gallery on Laystall Street in east central London from tomorrow, Borel tells us more about this intriguing project.

Homme Libre is a series of black and white portraits of men I’m close friends with, guys I loosely know, and ones I met randomly in the street or on the tube. Straight, gay, trans, they come from all sorts of backgrounds and I guess the main thing they have in common is their connection to me. Each sitter was chosen for different reasons: their stance or sense of style; an air of mystery or romance; displaying a sense of vulnerability and them having a strength because of that; or because they reminded me of someone I used to know or saw in a film. The title of the project comes from the Baudelaire quote on the t-shirt: ‘Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer (Free man, always you will cherish the sea)...’ I wondered what would it look like with these men wearing the same t-shirt, and whether I could explore ideas of masculinity, as a woman? There has recently been a lot of discussion about the female gaze in terms of women looking at women – I wanted to be a woman looking at men.”

Homme Libre is at the A22 Gallery from November 16-25.