A man’s facial hair is a very personal thing. Length, shape, and grooming are just some of the very conspicuous ways for a man to express his own style. However, choosing to wear facial hair has also become strongly influenced by society’s definitions of masculinity. In an effort to explore these social stereotypes, photographer Joseph D.R. OLeary began documenting men with facial hair. His exploration of the personas that go along with crazy beards and curly moustaches developed into this series entitled Of Beards and Men.
For one full year, OLeary invited more than 130 bearded men to be photographed in his studio. For the shoot, he asked them to bring a couple changes of clothes and “a prop or two that defines them professionally, personally, or spiritually.” Many of the men had never posed for a portrait before and so it was challenging to help them let down their barriers and be themselves in front of the camera. But, the final results are an interesting social study on the wide range of characters behind the beards. Without knowing much about the subjects, viewers can quickly formulate stories and backgrounds based on specific styles, accessories, and choice of clothing. OLeary believes that the images have become a visual record of masculinity in contemporary society, and he has compiled the collection into a coffee table book project that can be supported through his Kickstarter page.