All images by Jeff Rojas. Used with permission.
Jeff Rojas believes himself to be a better business person than he is a photographer, but that doesn’t discount his work or his ambition to have the general public look at posing men in a different way. For years, the industry has taken a much more serious and clinical way of looking at and posing women. In contrast, they’ve kind of mocked and laughed at men. But Jeff doesn’t think that’s quite fair in today’s modern feminist society. So to that end, he’s written a new book all about photographing men.
He also believes that Instagram has started to change things.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Jeff: As cliché as it sounds, photography found me. Long story short, I had a vintage car I was restoring and bought a DSLR to show it off to my friends and family. That lead to taking misc. photo classes and lighting courses. Several years later, I was laid off of work and decided to take a big risk and make it my job.
Phoblographer: What made you want to portraiture?
Jeff: Portraits just felt like the most natural progression to the way my brain functions. In high school, I signed up for every visual media classes that my curriculum would allow sans one – photography. I doodled a lot in HS, mostly portraits.
Phoblographer: So talk to us about the concept behind Photographing Men. It’s quite an interesting one and quite a story to tell.
Jeff: Funny enough, as much as I’d like to think that I’m a creative mind, I know that deep down, I’m a better business person. I say that because Photographing Men was definitely a calculated decision. I’d been wanting to write a book for the better part of 2 years. I spent that time submitting various proposals to different publishers without fruition.
About 2 years ago, I picked up a book on posing men and the content didn’t sit well with me. Why? Because the content was written in a satirical way. As a male who’s been a subscriber of GQ and Esquire, I felt that serious male portraiture was something people were overlooking. I analyzed the educational side of the photo industry and there wasn’t a single photographer focused on Photographing Men – so I decided to change that.
Phoblographer: Why do you think that our culture hasn’t taking photographing men very seriously for a number of years and is only now doing so (or at least attempting to?) Do you feel that strides in modern feminism have helped to change this?
Jeff: It’s funny you ask that because I consider myself a feminist in many ways. True feminism is founded on the belief of equal rights on the grounds of social, political and economic equality of men. In that belief, I think that works both ways. Men shouldn’t feel inferior to women. Men should be equal to women. In that notion, I think that men deserve to have a photographer look at them with the same eyes that a photographer looks at the female figure.
I think that we are currently living in a very interesting era. Men are dressing better. Men are taking care of themselves. We now understand the value of personal appearance and that is something that I want to capture.
Phoblographer: How do you feel photographing men differs from women besides the wardrobe?
Jeff: The only difference in small details in my humble opinion. Why? Because creatively in the same manner you can style women and pose women, you can do the exact same thing with me. The difference for me is structure and the way that men show confidence That’s through a combination of structure and body language.
Phoblographer: Our culture for many years has been very much about immortalizing men in cinema through camera angles, lighting, environments, etc. But why do you feel it hasn’t been so specifically with photography?
Jeff: I think that’s a recent trend. Why? If we think of iconic image of Marlon Brando, Steven McQueen, James Dean, etc., those elements are definitely used. I just think that somewhere along the line, photographers forgot about motivated and purposeful light. Overall, I think that many photographers are just interested in lighting to accentuate facial features, but forget to give light a purpose.
Phoblographer: When we think about some iconic American images, most of what we think of are Marilyn Monroe and there are a few of Frank Sinatra but otherwise the scene is dominated by women like Audrey Hepburn and more. Do you think our society will try to continue to embrace this in the future while also trying to recognize the beauty that men can put forward in stills too? How long do you think it’s going to take considering the nation’s fixation on women for many years?
Jeff: I think that we need more photographers who are willing to be extremely open minded and want to capture these images. It doesn’t matter if it takes a week or ten years… the longer it takes, the less documentation we have of some really great memories of some really amazing men.
Phoblographer: So while you were creating this book, tell us about some of the things that you thought were absolutely imperative for people to know about photographing men?
Jeff: I’ve been trying my best to think beyond the normal creative. Why? I’ve included content that relates to psychology as it pertains to how we perceive human beings… like the power of body language and how to avoid offending people when photographing their “perceived flaws.”
If there’s anything that I want you to take away from this book, it’s that I hope that you look at photographing men with a new set of eyes. Men don’t have to be funny… they can be strong, confident and masculine.
Phoblographer: What are some very standard poses that photographers can use for men? Obviously it varies on a creative vision but where would you recommend a photographer start out at?
Jeff: Included with the book is a short video on 5 “go-to” poses, but the key is to analyze the context of your subject’s environment before posing anyone.
Phoblographer: How do you think Instagram and social media will change the way that society perceives men? Men are obviously quite photoshopped too (Justin Bieber being a big example) but the nation’s affinity for fitness has also paved the way for men using the platform to promote themselves in similar ways that women use the platform.
Jeff: Great question! Have you seen the photograph of Cristiano Ronaldo for this month’s issue of GQ? He’s ripped! The ONLY thing they fixed was minor skin blemishes and a wrinkle or two. GQ was kind enough to show their images before and after for scrutiny. (Yes, I’m totally jealous.
As for Justin Bieber, maybe he should have opted for doubling up on his skivvies. 😛
On a serious note however, I think that Instagram has definitely created a new subculture of fitter and better dressed men.