This story is part of The 2020 Project, a Men’s Health special project that explores the lives of 20 different 20-year-old men across America. To learn more about the others, go here.
GROWING UP as a Blackman in Macon, Georgia,I was taught to have my guard up, to “man up,” and to protect my house. Other, older men told me this. What those men didn’t tell me was how to open up or that it was okay to cry. I must shield others first, even at the expense of my own well-being.
I carry these ideas. I know other Black men—young and old—do, too. But I also grew up on Instagram. I grew up with access to different types of people. I grew up with a definition of masculinity that is quickly evolving. And as a gay man, I grew up with the sense that I didn’t have to be afraid of being myself, or of sharing my feelings.
During the summer of 2019, I shot a series of photographs inspired by the idea that men are undergoing a collective evolution. We’re growing up in a period when we are confronted with issues of police brutality and discrimination on a regular basis. Many Black men are now forming a new relationship with their own identities and masculinities—out of necessity. Through these images, I wanted to capture this new masculinity: one that’s powerful, emotional, delicate, and symbolic of the times. I called the series “Unravel.”
One of the photographs has seven models, all Black men, all standing together, with their heads looking up to the sky. I want it to embody a new and important message, that Black men can lean on one another. We do not protect with our individual strength alone. True power comes through unity.
—Eric Hart Jr., 20, a photographer studying at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts
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