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29.08.2012

 

A Book of Beards - photographer Justin James Muir talks to GoSee about his portrait series and the intriguing world of men with beards

When it comes to menswear these past few seasons there has been one ultimate must-have accessory, which countless brands have been sure to furnish their campaigns with – a beard.

Once the reserve of heavy metal fans and religious devotees, the beard has become a much coveted aspirational fashion ideal. GoSee has just read that pilots are sadly unable to participate in this masculine trend, as flight rules prohibit them from growing beards. Pilots and flight attendants must be clean-shaven to ensure a tight fit with oxygen masks, the same also goes for men working in the oil and gas industries – not looking so rugged on the oilrigs then after all.

Another form of facial hair – the moustache - has also increasingly become a form of protest or a means of raising awareness. GoSee recently reported on a wave of women’s rights protestors in Lebanon who sported fake ‘taches to spread the message of ‘no rights, no women’. Similarly, Movember is the month formerly known as November, where men and women across the globe join together to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues – specifically cancers that affect men. Guys or ‘Mo Bros’ volunteer to raise money for charity by growing moustaches in the month of November, most commonly for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

It may not be Movember just yet but photographer Justin James Muir’s A Book of Beards is an interesting combination of two of its key aspects. It presents portraits of beardy men that compete in facial hair competitions and it also collects money for charity.

The seed for A Book of Beards was planted in 2011 when Justin’s curious hobby of photographing local beards, in West Chester PA, grew to include facial hair competitors and photographing bearded strangers in a self-made portable portrait studio. Once he had photographed his first ten beardy portraits he decided that he wanted to take more photographs and that posting them on a blog or Flickr simply wasn’t enough.

One year and many beards later Justin decided to publish the portraits in a book. And better still, a self-published not for profit book to help raise funds for a friend of Justin’s without health insurance who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Justin was given a camera as a present from his mother three years ago. His background in design and a passion to perfect different graphic mediums saw his photography, in particular portraits, quickly evolve and develop.

GoSee wanted to find out more about Justin’s fascination with beards. Here is our short interview:

What made you start taking pictures of men with beards?
When I moved to West Chester PA, I noticed the beard culture was a bit larger than other places I had been. So I started taking shots of my friends with giant beards. A lot of them made the book. After that, I just kept finding more beards and kept shooting them. There is something intriguing about a man with a beard.

There certainly is! Do you have a beard?
I generally always have some sort of beard. I don't really get it to grow as long as anyone in the book though. :)

Had you heard of Movember before you started taking photos of beards?
I had heard of it. Initially I wanted to try and release the book in November but was unable to finish in time.

Have you started any new series of photo projects?
I have a couple in mind. But haven’t started anything yet. It will most likely stay in the portrait world though.


To see a wider selection of his portrait work and more go to:
www.justinjamesmuir.com

And to order your own copy of A Book of Beards and help a good cause go to:
www.bookofbeards.com


And if you simply can’t get enough of facial hair competitors, check out the German counterparts to Justin’s American subjects in this series by Manu Agah, exhibited at the fifth Hamburg Photography Triennale, 2011 (as reported by GoSee).

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