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Elliott Rosie Matheson Boys
ElliottPhotography Rosie Matheson

Capturing the beauty and emotion of London’s young men

Photographer Rosie Matheson discusses her Boys series, which is shortly going on display

Fashion has always been obsessed with young men. In fact, SHOWstudio’s editor-at-large put on an exhibition about it last year, which explored the ways in which the idea of the teen boy has been constructed by creators including Raf Simons, Meadham Kirchhoff, Glen Luchford, J.W.Anderson and Nick Knight. Photographer Rosie Matheson is also interested in putting masculinity under the lens – her latest project Boys brings together a series of portraits of young men predominantly from London. A far cry from the posed pictures seen on the pages of glossy fashion magazines, Matheson’s images depict her subjects in their natural state and in their normal clothes. 

Come Saturday, Boys will be put on display at Hoxton Arches in London as part of The Gathering exhibition-slash-pop-up-shop. “This project subconsciously began in 2015 when the subjects I was most drawn to tended to be young men,” says Matheson. “I guess I’m interested in photographing men as they have that mixture of outrageous confidence or strength alongside a strong sense of vulnerability. I prefer photographing guys because they’re not so worried about styling or make-up – it’s more just photographing them as they are.”

Matheson found most of her subjects on Instagram but some – like Seb (pictured below) – she spotted elsewhere. “A few months ago, I was in Brighton doing some work with my assistant Reuben and we went into the library so we could see our computer screens clearly. Approaching the empty seats we both noticed a guy sat there typing away. Both Reuben and I did a double take and couldn’t believe this incredible looking guy was just sat right next to us. I asked to take his photo and Reuben took his details.

“I’ve found sometimes when I’m photographing boys there seems to be some kind of facade, like they’re bottling something up inside of them and trying not to show their emotions” – Rosie Matheson

“His face and eyes in particular are so revealing and show so much emotion – when I shot him for this project, it was just after he had finished work and it was a bitterly cold evening on Brighton seafront. The sun was quickly setting and the last of the natural light was gone, so we found a spot on Brighton Pier where there was a enough light from a lamp to light up his face while also getting the sunset in the back. His face and just the general vibe in the photo capture exactly how he was feeling on the day.

“Matheson has really managed to capture the emotion in Seb’s face and eyes, and that’s really what her photos have in common. Sure, they show her subjects striking features, but they also give a glimpse into their souls – and that’s actually what this project is all about. “I’m interested in targeting the pressures that guys have in society – the feeling that they have to portray themselves as masculine. I’ve found sometimes when I’m photographing boys there seems to be some kind of facade, like they’re bottling something up inside of them and trying not to show their emotions. As if it were a bad thing to express their feelings. The project focuses on showing each individual through natural, uncontrived and honest.”

The Gathering is on show at Hoxton Arches, London on November 12th. Head here for more details.