"Although I didn’t grow up in a sexist, macho household, I felt pressures from society of having to imitate a certain representation of masculinity," says the young Australian photographer
Mac Lawrence’s Hidden Dispositions examines the representation of masculinity in his home country, Australia, a place “shaped by conflict, toxic norms and a deeply fragile sense of masculinity”. “Australian culture is rooted in racism, sexism and decades of white male dominance,” he says.
“Boys are socialised to regard manhood as a revered and desired social status. Across Australian culture, there is a consistent belief that a ‘real man’ is powerful, dominant, assertive and in control. When making this work, I was thinking about generations of reinforcing ideas and toxic lessons of what ‘normal’ male expression is supposed to be.”
The son of a film editor and a primary school teacher, Lawrence was born in 1990 and brought up in Melbourne. He graduated last year Photography and Fine Art from the Photography Studies College in Melbourne, but didn’t always follow a smooth path through life. “As a young man, I fell in and out of friendship groups that would pride themselves on anti-social behaviour, prejudice and physical dominance,” he says.
“I often found that I had to physically prove myself in order to feel an acceptance from my peers. I felt discouraged from showing any sort of physical or emotional weakness, which started from a young age. Although I didn’t grow up in a sexist, macho household, I felt pressures from society of having to imitate a certain representation of masculinity.”
Lawrence’s photography is metaphorical, but attempts to question how our understanding of masculine archetypes is shaped by larger institutional trends in society – as well as the inherent tensions in such expressions of macho culture. He employs hyper-saturated black-and-white imagery alongside stark compositions of light and shadow, and incorporates a mix of found photography and video stills along with his own shots.
He wants, he says, to reflect an “abstracted notion of conflict”. “They are both internal emotional representations and external physical representations of masculinity,” he says. “I visit places that I have a direct relationship to and try to make pictures within the urban landscape that reflect an internalised idea of the work.”