Turned around.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a specific type of photograph—a young man facing away from the camera, often accentuating his neck.

While this seems to exist, almost exclusively, within the context of fashion editorial, one can’t help but draw comparisons to artists like Wolfgang Tillmans or Robert Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait in a leather jacket from behind. Even the contemporary filmmaker Xavier Dolan utilizes this type of image.

But what is it about this image that draws our attention? Is it the general peculiarity of the neck? The beauty of the neck? A voyeuristic appeal from the subject being turned around, us as the audience viewing him from behind without his awareness? 

The reality of the situation is that the photographer instructed their subject to literally turn around, or in a candid way approached their subject from behind. The first situation describing a sort of dominant assertiveness, the second showing restraint towards a fragile situation—one that could fall apart if the subject turns their attention towards the photographer.

Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans

And so my fascination is unwavering. Everytime I see this image in a spread, advertisement, or film, I focus on it, wondering what it’s trying to say. Perhaps nothing. No more than a fetishized figure by eager fetishizing photographers. But there is no doubt, I think, that this is a surprisingly beautiful pose.