Arrested Movement is all about male body positivity

Arrested Movement is an inclusive portrait series and awareness initiative celebrating and promoting positive body image for men by Anthony Patrick Manieri.  In recent years, the push to include the issue of body positivity awareness into the mainstream conversation has been acknowledged in the media as a woman’s issue;  Manieri believes that it is a human issue.  We as a society are bombarded from an early age with what is considered to be beautiful and acceptable through our environment, television, movies, advertising and the dominant juggernaut of social media via our computers and smartphones. All causing negative affects on our self-esteem.  Body image is related to self-esteem.

What started out as a single photo session consisting of 10-12 men to be showcased in a gallery exhibit, quickly and organically morphed into this movement through social media, which now is allowing Manieri to meet and photograph men in different cities. He listens to their stories and personal struggles that they share, and he reminds them that we’re all the same.  This inclusive series focuses on men of all races, from thin to large, Little People to super tall, men with physical disabilities, transgender men, as well as two-spirited men.  All are welcome. All are beautiful.

Manieri holds space on set for these men, allowing them to feel empowered.  Stopping every once in a while during the session to show them what they’re images look like on screen, and having their reactions be quite joyful. He is looking for a moment where the soul comes through, then stopping time when their authentic self meets his eye and the shutter of his camera.  A celebratory moment of self-love, self-empowerment and self-acceptance is captured.  

What is the Arrested Movement project and how did you come up with this idea?

Arrested Movement is a photographic portrait series and awareness initiative that focusses on body positivity for men.  There were a few things that came into alignment which led me to decide that this series was needed.  The message was needed.  The representation was needed.  Wounds needed to be healed. 

What is the message you would like to spread with this project?

The message attached to Arrested Movement is all about self-love, self-esteem and self-acceptance.  And that body positivity is not gender specific. #menfeeltoo

Where did you meet and how did you find the men who participated in this project?

Some of the men were friends or associates.  Initially I put a call out on a few social media pages within the cities I was planning on photographing in. Once the series gained popularity, I started to receive messages from men that were interested in participating when and if I would ever be in their city, or that they would be willing to fly to the city I would be photographing in, or come to Toronto where I’m located (which many have done).

What is the most special story of the participants you were told that really touched you?

What I’ve come to realize while doing this series, is that everyone has a story. Everyone participates for their own reasons.  Everyone wants to feel beautiful and that they matter.  There’s not one story that stands out more than another, but there were definitely a couple of ‘firsts’ that moved me.  One of the first messages through FB messenger I received the week I did the first session in Toronto was from a man that lived in the mid-west of the USA.  His husband had been in a train accident, which resulted in scaring and fallen into a depression, gained weight and didn’t feel good about himself…and wished that his husband could participate in the series, to show him how beautiful he is.

The first time on set when a man approached me that he has had a series of health issues that has changed his body, and he came to be photographed to ensure that there was a record that he existed.  I gave him a big hug, and then excused myself and went outside and wept.  Initially I didn’t know how to respond to these men.  What I came to realize is that I can only speak from my own personal experience, using empathy and being human.   

How was diversity achieved through the Arrested Movement?

Originally it became a first come first photograph basis, as I was grateful that men would even show up.  Once I had a definite idea that men wanted to participate, I tried to be as discerning as possible in regards to showing diversity.  I found that it was difficult to have men of colour, men of Asian descent, and men with physical disabilities step forward and participate.  I would even go as far as messaging men online asking if they might be interested.  That being said, as the photo series and its message started to gain interest, thankfully more of a diverse group of men started to come forward.

Do you think body positivity in men is not promoted or even celebrated? Is there still stigma towards body positive men?

Well that’s one of the reasons I started this series.  I found that in the media, whenever the topic of positive body image was ever discussed, 99% of the time it always had to deal with women.  And for the most part this is usually the narrative, women do get the brunt of negative commentary.  I wanted to create a dialogue shining light on the fact that men also deal with body issues and need be included in the narrative.

Over the past few years, the topic of body positivity dealing with men has started to emerge more and more.  The other day I found an article written and published in March of 2020, listing 50 body positive influencers we should follow, and out of the 50 listed, only 4 were men. It’s something, but not enough. 

What are the struggles that men face in these days? Do you think LGBTQ+ men face more struggles?

I think most people suffer on some level with something these days.  Social media definitely is playing a huge part in people feeling less than.  A lot of men in the LGBTQ+ community suffer from low self-esteem and stressful life experiences, and are some of the most at-risk to develop poor mental health and eating disorders.

How important is self-love and body acceptance?

We need to remind ourselves just how much self-love and body acceptance is super important.  It’s something that we know is definitely needed, and hopefully worked on daily.  Mindful meditation is a great daily practice to help silence the mind and keep the negative ego somewhat at bay. 

How were your childhood years? Did you have any body acceptance issues and how did that affect you?

I had a great childhood.  I was, however, always the chubby kid.  The tallest kid.  The kid that rarely took his shirt off at the beach.  I was told I was big boned, and as a kid, in my mind, equated to being fat.  I was always conscious of how I presented myself. I made sure I would crack a fat joke about myself, as I used humour to deflect.  But I have to say, as I got older, and came into my own, those insecurities started to fall away.  And of course, starting this series has helped me tremendously with accepting and loving myself.

You are a successful photographer and art director working and living in Toronto, supporting a lot the LGBTQ+ community. How is it living as an LGBTQ+ man in Canada?

I’m lucky to live in Canada as an LGBTQ+ man today.  Mind you, the generations that came before me were the ones that fought hard for equality that has allowed me to have an easier life as an openly gay man.  We need to always remember those individuals.

What do you enjoy most in your work?

Creating art with a message.

How has this pandemic affected your work and your life?

Already practicing mindful meditation, I had time to look inward and make some positive changes.  As far as work is concerned, the restrictions put in place because of the pandemic has meant that the art world, and many other industries have almost stopped , has definitely taken a massive hit. 

You were planning an Arrested Movement gallery exhibition in London last summer, but because of covid everything had to be postponed. When do you expect the opening night to be?

Yes, the show was meant to run for 2 weeks on the South Bank in London in 2020, overlapping London Pride.  Depending on what’s in store for the future with this pandemic and the restrictions that still may be in effect, that will determine when the physical exhibition would be shown. 

How can we find the Arrested Movement book?

The book was officially launched on Kickstarter a few days before covid became a global pandemic last year.  I decided to make an announcement on my social media platforms that I would be stopping the sales of the book.  Ethically I couldn’t consciously try and sell something during a time of uncertainty when people were worried about their health, their jobs and toilet paper.  The book has been shelved for now, but looking at relaunching the Kickstarter campaign this year, with some changes to it.  So look out for it.

What are your future plans?

Currently I’m started to work on a podcast that would deal with many things, especially body positivity, mental health and ways of coping with it.  I hope it to be inspirational, intelligent and light.  For the past few years, myself and a friend have been working on creating a documentary based on Arrested Movement, and currently looking for a production company to partner with.

*All images are courtesy of Anthony Patrick Manieri

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