By: Lauren Ali
ALL IMAGES BY RYAN JAMES CARUTHER
Masculinity is described as a set of attributes or behaviours associated with being a man or a boy. If you Google, “masculinity,” images of shirtless men with rippling muscles flexing with weights immediately pop up, along with the words strong, powerful and athletic. Ryan James Caruthers, a New York based photographer, confronts these commonly associated traits in his photo series, “Tryouts.” Caruthers lives with Pectus Excavatum, a condition where the ribs and sternum of the chest grow inverted creating a cave-in chest. Growing up being challenged with masculinity, homosexuality and athleticism, Caruthers turns his camera towards himself to further express himself through self-portraiture.
“This condition and my skinny frame pushed me away from participating in sports and physical activity, ultimately removing me from the usual signs of masculinity,” explains Caruthers. “This estrangement from athleticism further separated me from other boys in school — as this is what they were preoccupied with. I was raised in a suburban town in New Jersey, and involvement in sports was almost essential.”
Though he didn’t find success in sports, Caruthers did discover success when he became one of the models at Yves Saint Laurent working alongside their creative director, Hedi Silmane. Caruthers says he has been photographing himself from a young age as he can easily emote the feelings he wishes to come across in the image through gestures. The locations of the shots were strategically chosen as they reflected areas where he would have actually played sports as a child, such as baseball diamonds or swimming pools.
Caruthers further dives into the intricate meanings of masculinity, homosexuality and athleticism during his creation of “Tryouts” as he tries to make connections between them without words. He describes the violence in the images as “the awareness of violence in sports, yet also to hint at [his] experiences with bullying.”
“Feeling a sense of isolation as a child was haunting as I was closeted and not comfortable with my body. Although I was segregated from athleticism at this time, I still had a dire need to be a part of it. As a male I found it difficult to be disconnected from something that almost reconfirms your gender.”
You can purchase “Tryouts” here.