Ken Graves and Eva Lipman

Seeing Male

Seeing Male is an exhibition of photographs captured by partners Ken Graves and Eva Lipman which belong to individual projects shot over three decades.

In the early years of their practice, Lipman and Graves documented rituals marking the passage of time, photographing subjects on the cusp of adulthood, or adults in the throes of initiation. Many of these early images were taken at traditionally male dominated sites: in the back rooms of sporting events, on the sidelines of demolition derbies, in European bathhouses, at military barracks and at boy scout jamborees. These images celebrate manhood and enact rituals to mark the passage of boys into men.

Turning their cameras away from the main event, Lipman and Graves searched for a visual language to express hidden tensions, vulnerabilities and desires at the heart of individual subjects. In contrast to the idealized male hero, their photographs witness the longing, obsession, self-aversion and passion that lurks beneath the surface. They hone in on body parts, signaling undertones of camaraderie and hidden emotions. At these sites, by way of coded rituals, men celebrate excess, risk and violence in a male culture that shuns physical contact between men.

After the emergence of the feminist movement and the unprecedented changes of the post-Vietnam era, the feminist perspective reanimated the discourse around male desire, and the destabilization of masculinity as a category gained momentum. With expanding notions of masculinity emerging, Graves and Lipman returned to these locations with new interest, focusing on the relationships of men with other men.

Photographing during ill-fitted moments, misperformances, and unguarded excess, the artists expose the alienation, anxiety and oppression inflicted upon the male psyche. Despite the social conventions that heterosexualize male contact, homoerotic tensions erupt with latent eroticism, manifest in such qualities as sacrifice and devotion. The extremity of competition, the profound desire for cathartic release and the drive for containment all express the need to overcome restrictions imposed on the male body.

In Seeing Male, the reconfiguration of these early images challenges past assumptions about the work, posing new questions, unveiling layers of meaning, and reflecting shifts in the current cultural landscape.

Ken Graves (1942-2016) was born in Portland, OR and received his BFA and MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is the recipient of a Ferguson Grant (1973) and National Endowment for the Arts (1975, 1986), among others. Graves received a John Guggenheim Fellowship in 1999 for their collaborative photography project on masculinity. His work has been widely exhibited and is in permanent collections at Allentown Art Museum, PA; Brooklyn Museum, NY; and the NY and SF Museums of Modern Art. He is the co-author with Eva Lipman of American Snapshots and Ballroom. The Home Front, a respective of Graves’s early work was published by Mack Books in 2014, and Ken Graves: The Meaning of Gravity, a collection of his collages, was published by Luhz Press in 2023. He taught photography at Pennsylvania State University until 2008. He is survived by his wife and photographic partner Eva Lipman.

Eva Lipman was born in Děčín, Czechoslovakia, received her BA in Literature from Hunter College, her MSW from Columbia University, New York, and studied photography at the Center for Media Arts and the School of Visual Arts, NY. Lipman currently resides in El Cerrito, CA. Her work is in several private and public collections and has been exhibited at Allentown Art Museum, PA; Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR; The New York Public Library, NY; Clampart Gallery, New York, NY; and the NY and SF Museums of Modern Art. She is the co-author with Ken Graves of the photography books Restraint and Desire and Derby, published by TBW Books in 2022. She continues to be a steward of their work.

Ken Graves and Eva Lipman are represented by Rose Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Clampart, New York, NY; and Anglim/Trimble.

Works in the Exhibition