When fashion photographer Tarik Carroll set out to create a photo series to promote body positivity in men, he wasn’t prepared for the reaction.
“I had no idea it would become a viral sensation. I am beyond grateful and shocked,” Carroll, 29, tells PEOPLE of the positive feedback garnered by his EveryMan Project. “Doing this project is purely a labor of love. I thought, if I reach a small amount of people, that’s fine. But I would be beyond blessed if I’m allowed a platform to inspire a mass amount of people.”
And that he is. What began as a collection of ’90s-inspired photos featuring men of different sizes, races and sexualities has become a “movement” says Carroll, who continues to expand the series. In the works is a coffee table book that will include personal essays from the models, as well as a documentary.
“It’s called the EveryMan Project, so we do want to capture every man,” says the Brooklyn-based photographer, who has also received “enormous support” from the women’s body positivity movement. “I want to challenge society’s obsession with hyper masculinity and perfection by capturing men/male identifying from all backgrounds, orientations, gender identifications, personal classifications, races and colors,” he explains on his website.
Carroll says he recognized the need for a project of this type after spending 7 years photographing male models and hearing them body-shame themselves.
“I was hearing stories from male models who are, say 150 lbs. with a super cut body – people who fit the ideal body type of what male beauty is, and they were [saying] they’re too fat and have to lose weight to get a certain campaign.” he says. “From the outside looking in you would think these guys have it all, but they are having some of the same issues that I do and I’m way bigger than they are! One thing that I realized is the pain across the board no matter what your body type is, it’s the same because, we as men, have been taught not to speak about our issues when it comes to how we feel about our bodies.”
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But first Carroll had to come to terms with his own insecurities. “I came up with the idea a year ago and sat on it because I knew once I put this out, I would have to deal with my own body issues as well, so there was a lot of apprehension in being at the forefront of this movement,” Carroll, who appears in the series, says. “I’m a photographer. I’m used to being behind the camera and now I’m in front of the camera.”
He adds: “I had my own ‘a-ha moment’ when I started to realize I have my voice as a fashion photographer and I need to speak about this.”
As he expands his project, the new crop of photos will have the same ’90s fashion aesthetic that he grew up admiring. “But we are going to modernize some things, give a fresh take.”
And he plans to stay true to his original vision. “My overall goal is to essentially cause a shift in consciousness in society, specifically in the fashion community,” he says. “Showing body diversity and affecting men and how they see themselves, and each other. I want everyone to feel a little more confident in their own skin and be their genuine self.”