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Breast Plates

Breast Plates is about men and how we relate to one another in this culture. The women's movement has done a great deal to dispel myths about women's roles in our society. A to a great extent, this process is forcing men to deal with the myths surrounding masculinity and how we think of our selves and those we interact with.

The title Breast Plates is taken from the term used to describe medieval armor worn by warriors to protect themselves. I have used the metaphor of taking off one's t-shirt (a contemporary symbol for masculinity) to represent the stripping away of those traditional devices which, heretofore, have protected and imprisoned us.

The grid pattern symbolizes measurement and staying within the boundaries of what is expected of us. In earlier pieces the grid remains in the background, exerting a subtle, yet powerful influence in our lives. In later images the figures become actively involved with the grid as they struggle to free themselves. The solarization of the images (a partial reversal of tones done during printing) gives an x-ray quality and sense of disintegration that could not have been accomplished by photographically printing them in the traditional way.

You are seeing 8 images from a series of twenty-three. In its entirety the series operates as a narrative, moving from what has been the traditional male stance to the process of questioning and change that many men find themselves in today. The struggle to remove the breast plate is a difficult one. And for many of us the acknowledgement that it even exists is problematic.

Jeff Gates

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