Exploring community and masculinity with the Manchester School of Art photography graduate
Degree shows have come and gone once again and with a fresh wave of bright young things fighting to stake their claim, the pressure is on. Photographer Nathan Cutler is well positioned to break through though, having been awarded the Redeye graduate award prize at Manchester School of Art.
“Within an institution no matter how self-directed the work is, there is always an element, or thought that it will be graded. I am ready to move away from this”, he explains “Yet I’m pleased to be leaving the university with a project that I’m keen to continue with immediately”.
Nathan’s interest in photography was uncovered through exploration and the fluidity of other art practices. He would take photographs to use as a reference material during his time at school, coming to realise that the original images would “always be far better than anything I made from them”. Growing up in Brighton provided a springboard and great surroundings to nourish his interest with events like Brighton Photo Fringe and Miniclick offering plenty of inspiration. Over time though, the North of England that has come to have a big impact on his gaze.
Drawing on a fascination with observational photographic practices, Nathan became drawn to small groups and communities with obscure hobbies outside of the workplace, often focusing on the working class men within them. As his interest and research in these subcultures grew, his projects developed to encompass often overlooked and misjudged perceptions of masculinity. “Once I became aware of this link, I decided to make work directly about this notion of masculinity and place” he tells us, “I think there is something quintessentially English about these bubbles of community and culture, which often surround the working man in some way. Often many of these working men are labelled by their trade or profession, I found it different to think about identity outside of these”.
Nathan’s images strip back the often hard exterior, harsh judgements and labels associated with these subcultures and show a thoughtfulness and the basic humanity of the people and passion that manifest in these social groups. “I have learned that many of the environments I have visited are slowly adapting to be more inclusive and welcoming to all. Although many of these spaces are thought of as masculine, they are important for the whole community, not just for men”.
The honesty and sensitivity with which Nathan approaches his subjects is clearly reflected in the portraits. This genuine connection allows for the audience to draw more subtle links and shape their own perception of the spaces. “I wanted to add something to the visual portrayal rather than blindly enforcing stereotypes”.
Nathan’s approach and ability to create engaging and perceptive photographs, will lead him down a successful road in his practice as the exciting world of contemporary, documentary photography continues to evolve.