Here at the Good Men Project Magazine, we’ve talked a lot about what it means to be a good man. But let’s face it: most of the time we’re talking about what it means to be a good man in a first-world country. (And moreover, what it means to be a good white man in a first-world country.)
So we wanted to take it to the next level. We spoke to Nick Aldridge, the Cape Town–based photographer behind these photos, who describes his hometown like this:
I live in a society that’s really, really screwed up. There’s an incredible amount of violence and domestic violence and rape and child abuse … and as African and South African culture has been eroded, it’s gotten worse. Men have less of an idea of where they fit in society, and that aggression too often gets misplaced.
12 Good Men is a photo essay that depicts 12 workers from the I&J fish-processing factory in Cape Town.
What’s lovely about the men’s hands that we photographed in the factory was that just by looking at their hands you had some insight into their natures. These really felt like they were full portraits. You can see the cocky guy with the pole over his shoulder, the James Dean swagger … just see hands. Then there’s the naughty guy with the screw drive in his back pocket. You know, the slightly weaselly one who will try and get away with stuff. And the conscientious electrician who made notes on the palms of his hands that he had to scrub off before entering.
The men were participants in a program started by the “5-in-6” initiative which drew its name from the macabre statistic that a shocking one out of six men were guilty of domestic violence. 5-in-6 came from the idea that the other five were the uncelebrated good men who could do something about it. The initiative offered workshops at corporations, on farms, and in government to help men understand their power relations with women, build self-esteem, and to deal constructively with difficult domestic situations. The initiative also launched an ad campaign to prevent domestic violence against women.
I hope that these photographs allow these men some recognition of the bigger picture of what they’re doing. How we all fit together. And I hope that by being symbolic and anonymous, other people can identify with them. The man who beat his wife a year ago isn’t necessarily the man who will beat his wife today. People evolve and change and learn things. And as artists, we want to create an image that uplifts them or changes their image, hopefully in a meaningful way.