Placed at the crossroads of cultural, political, and social intricate webs of meaning, the individual will always be a surface of inscription. No-one is allowed to remain a clean slate, as they entered the world; everyone needs a story, a name, and a category, in order to make sense, and to simply be. Sameness and difference rule this way of the world – to be placed within a category is to be judged against someone similar, and have any differences clearly marked.
Newly born humans who present biological signs of being male will be called men, and immediately inherit a millenary story they must embrace, or fight hard to escape. A man is not a man, but, even for a few moments, all men. A man is a hunter, a warrior, a wise priest; a man is a soldier, a saviour, a great leader; a man is not weak, not afraid, not a coward. These stories of men are being constantly rewritten on male bodies; at a glance, the body is recognised not for what the individual is, but for what expectations surrounding their bodies are. This form of misrecognition is what inspires photographer Tomasz Wisniowski in his latest series, Dedication.
Wisniowski turns towards the world of sports today to explore masculinity as constructed through some of the current labels attached to it. Physical strength, fitness, relentlessness – all qualities that define successful athletes are often illegitimately exported out of the sports´ world to define men and their success at simply being men.
Wisniowski asks all the right questions in this series that refuses lamentation and melancholy, and rather calls for a detachment and coolness of thought. What do we see when we look at these men? Where do bias and stereotypes end and where does accuracy begin? More important even – is our act of looking a legitimate tool, relative to the goals of such an exercise? The photographer seems to keep his distance from offering a definitive answer, yet remains critical of all categories and delimitations circulated within the visual realm of recognition and inscription of embodied subjectivities.
Dedication does not glamorise physical strength, but launches a meritorious challenge of definitions and classifiers, inviting the viewer to move beyond the binary sameness-difference, and embrace multitude as a form of learning the new, and unlearning the old.
Words: Elena Stanciu
Photography: Tomasz Wisniowski