Transforming the Male Aesthetic

Photoshop has transformed both artistic and commercial photography, at times for the better and at times for the worse. Robert Laliberte’s stunning new exhibit ‘Transformations‘ is definite proof of the best that Photoshop can do to create intriguing, alluring images that make you want to examine them again and again.

As Laliberte told the Mirror earlier this month, “my point was to confuse the viewer as to how I created the images”. He used almost 70 different photographs to create the 21 pieces in the exhibit, which is showing at a sleek, contemporary gallery space in the Village called Galerie Dentaire.

The Montreal-based gay photographer got his start in the industry taking portraits for high-profile luminaries like Rene Levesque and Michel Tremblay, back when cameras still used film and photographers didn’t have the luxury of magically erasing blemishes or fusing multiple images together. His recent work features the epitome of the sculpted male aesthetic juxtaposed with scenes and objects of nature, creating what Laliberte calls “visual poems”.

In “Fleur Male”, the model is bent forward and grabbing his ankles in an incredible demonstration of intense focus and determination, resembling a classic yoga asana that takes years to achieve. Seemingly sprouting from the man’s rear is a sublime white lotus flower. Paired together, the man’s form resembles the vase that the flower calls home. It also speaks to a unity of masculine and feminine: the strength of the form with the fragility and delicate beauty of the flower.

Laliberte doesn’t employ nudity for its shock value. In fact, there was not a single cock shot in the bunch. His choice to flaunt the bare male form was two-fold: he wanted his photographs to be timeless, and to represent our most natural state as humans, the nakedness of birth and death.

One of the strongest images in the exhibit is “Equus” (pictured at top). It features a chiseled black male with a body to rival Adonis sporting a wire horse head, and gorgeously rendered in sepia-tone. I love the way Lalibete is able to convey power and strength without venturing into aggressiveness. The very delicate nature of the model’s posture and facial expression with eyes closed again evokes a certain degree of femininity, but without going overboard and venturing into satire or parody.

Many of the images in the exhibit feature models with closed eyes or faces turned away from the camera. In a sense, this helps the viewer to focus on the aesthetics of the form as opposed to the identity of the model. One notable exception to this is “Etat D’Ame”, which features a 3×3 grid of the same black and white head with different superimposed full color eyes.

Playing on the notion that the eyes are the windows to the soul, the subject’s soul is fragmented and depicted in varying forms including a black eye (the fighter), glittering drag make-up (the diva), crying a bloody tear (the sympathetic), and fully blacked out (censored, sleeping or perhaps death?)

Overall, I’d highly recommend Transformations, for the way it stirs up a range of emotions in the viewer and raises a number of questions about identity.

Robert Laliberte’s Transformation runs until August 9th, 2011

Galerie Dentaire, 1239 Amherst, (514) 523-5535


All photos in this article credited to Robert Laliberte –


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