Alan Charlesworth | Brotherhood of Bears
I never truly felt as though I belonged anywhere in the gay community while growing up. In the late 1990’s I became aware of the Bear community, a gay subculture that idolizes the often overweight and hairy male body. The stereotypical homosexual male is commonly featured with an impeccable hairless and toned body. The Bear culture has always dismissed these stereotypes and creates its own interpretation of beauty. Despite being a gay man it was difficult for me to relate to these men. I am not a Bear, but I do adore the brotherhood and its camaraderie. After my initial exploration of the Bear community I still felt like an outsider. Over time, I became comfortable around those I admired so much from afar.
After nearly a decade of immersion in the culture I decided it was time to establish what I have always been surrounded by. My initial approach to this subculture was to photograph the men who I had befriended over the years. This became a staple in my work for several years. Recently, I began investigating the spaces where this culture exists and the personality that can emanate from these places. What does it mean to be a Bear? Can a culture exist without labels? These photographs seek to acknowledge such questions and attempt to create a unique vision of intimacy into such an intriguing and private culture.