The Beards Of New York Project - An interview with Greg Salvatori
What was the original inspiration for the Beards Of New York project? I moved from London to New York and I wanted to embrace and celebrate the loudness, the colors, the beauty and the sexy arrogance of the city.
You’ve said that one of the aims of the book is to explore modern masculinity - did you learn anything about masculinity while making the book? During the time I spent working at Beards Of New York Project I discovered that masculinity is an incredibly fragile thing, often made of do's and don'ts. It has judgment built in. We often use "masculine" to mean strong, successful, rational, ambitious, fit. We often use "feminine" to mean weak, loser, emotional, unambitious, underdeveloped. Misogyny aside, do we really think the average man is more ambitious then Madonna, more successful then Oprah or more rational than Angela Merkel? I think the most masculine men are not afraid of other people's judgment the same way they are not afraid of pink. They are busy building the best version of themselves, whatever their unique and individual definition of "masculine" might be. The most interesting aspect about masculinity for me is the positive appreciation of all the aspects of the male form. A celebration of beauty and strength where there is room for all.
You say you are addicted to beauty - what defines beauty to you? Beauty is an intention. It's showing that you care. It's wanting to make the experience of living better. It's making that extra effort in every thing you do. Each one of us has one life and one life only and the work of art we paint with the time of our life it's up to us. We can decide to paint an amazing picture, as good as we possibly can, or just let laziness or hate take the brush.
Can you explain the decision to include a hot pink background to your photos for the Beards Of New York Project? Hot pink is the quintessentially girly, Barbie dolls color. I wanted it to contrast with the beard and create a "masculine/feminine" immediate effect. That background feels like a candy & cupcakes shop and each of these men is on display. You pick your favourites. Hot pink also brings out the features in each men, their beards, their tattoos, their muscles. It makes everything loud and joyful and literally eye candy.
Beards have been a hot trend for the last couple of years, but do you think their heyday is coming to an end? It's really hard to say. I would think so, but most men in the book have had a beard for a lifetime, so it's a part of who they are more than a trend.
Are there any guys in the book who were especially fun to shoot? Oh yes! New York has really everything! I've got the super narcissistic ones, the crazy ones, the religious ones, the let-me-tell-you-how-you-should-do-this ones. Some people came and gave me attitude, convinced that everything in the world is about them. Some men showed up with doughnut and coffee or a bottle of wine, wanting to show their appreciation. It's always a surprise when I open the door, I really can't predict how a day in the studio will be like. My favourites? The ones that want to understand what's behind the project. And the ones with wine of course!
What is the ideal aesthetic you were looking for when you chose your models, and how did you find them? When doing portrait series like Beards Of New York Project I always start with a shout out on Twitter, Instagram and my newsletter readers. It soon went viral and more then 1000 men applied to be part of it, sent their pictures and their stories. More then focusing on my ideal aesthetic, I wanted the series to be inclusive and represent the variety of race, shape and style you see in New York. I was able to pick and chose from an awesome group of men with a diversity of age from 18 to 74. I then went on with a year of work and more then 300 photo shoots. Totally worth it!