'glitterboy' photo series sheds light on toxic black masculinity

December 22, 2017

words by: Bere Wangge

The 20-year-old photographer Quil Lemons was recently picked by Instagram as one of amazing individuals who use their account to spread social awareness, a list that also includes Alok Vaid-Menon. The five people are recognized for their work and support for the LGBTQ community, mental health issues, body positivity and women’s collectives.

Lemons first got noticed earlier this year when he began his Glitterboy photo series. Featuring portraits of black men whose faces are covered in glitter, the series shines a light on toxic masculinity and how it affects the subjects of his photographs. By painting the men with glitter and shooting them in front of a pink background—both considered to be feminine—Lemons intends to challenge his audience’ perceptions on black masculinity and gender.

Lemons got his inspiration after reading a post on Frank Ocean’s Tumblr, where he announced his Snapchat’s username: AREALGLITTERBOY. “Will shine and shine and shine,” the singer writes. The short post, and the music video to Ocean’s Nikes, got Lemons thinking about gender and race, prompting him to take a picture of himself while wearing makeup and eventually starting Glitterboy.

“It surprises me in 2017 that we still carry deeply held ideas about what masculinity is and isn't that prevent us from acting certain ways and being truly who we are,” he says in his interview with i-D, adding that the project is “an ode to being your fucking self.”

“I think my work allows black men to feel pretty,” he says. “To be themselves.”

See other photographs from the series and more pictures on Lemons' Instagram



Images c/o Quil Lemons.