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Alhadjie Conteh by Piczo

Linking men’s make-up to mental health

TextAmelia Abraham

Make-up artist Athena Paginton collaborates with model and activist Hélène Selam Kleih to raise awareness about men’s mental health

How do you spark a conversation about men’s mental health visually? Too often, we reduce the topic to statistics, or else we see nothing at all; depression, anxiety and psychosis can be lonely, private, stigmatised, hidden, and difficult to put words to, let alone put pictures to. But here, in a beauty shoot with an all-male cast, make-up artist and Dazed Beauty Contributing Beauty Editor Athena Paginton paints the faces of contributors to HIM + HIS, an anthology about men and mental health created by model, activist and Dazed 100 member Hélène Selam Kleih.

“Hélène and I came together with the idea of curating a series of images involving contributors of her book ‘HIM + HIS’,” explains Athena. “Focusing on beauty portraiture with a mix of face painting, we wanted this project to offer a visual representation of masculinity, exploring the depths of what this topic means. The more we see men unapologetically being themselves, the more the stigma of mental health in males will erode.”

According to Athena, the shoot is about men being vulnerable, confident and expressing themselves – all positive articulations of masculinity. And it was borne out of a previous collaboration between her, Hélène and photographer Piczo. In the HIM + HIS book, for which Hélène is currently fundraising for a reprint, Hélène published images from Athena and Piczo’s images shot for the Samaritans from last year. “Like those images, I hope these can create a conversation, not only among those who identify as male but can open minds to those who want to educate themselves or others on the topic of masculinity and mental health,” says Athena.

That said, the images are not meant to be taken too seriously: “The images are silly,” Hélène adds. “They are glittery and trivial and fun. HIM + HIS is trying to show us all that mental health doesn’t have to be a burden and it can be explored outside of the confines of white walls and hushed tones. The images are still thought out and in keeping with the green theme of the book - it is a colour that has always signified health and happiness so I like to see how different people interpret the colour and the face logo [of the book] in each of their respective ways.”

She continues: “I asked each contributor in the shoot to collaborate with Athena on their looks to reflect their personality and the mantras they live by to cope, like Arran and his ‘patience’ portrait. Without explicitly speaking on mental health with the existing (sometimes boring, sometimes overwhelming) buzz words or clinical terms, we can create our own language to express ourselves and help others at the same time. Creativity in any form is the saving grace for all of us, and that’s what this series, and the day we created it meant for me.”


Photographer: Paige Whiting assisting
Make-up: Athena Paginton
Make-up assitant: Paige Whiting

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