It’s a tough call to determine which of Denis Dailleux’s subjects are more formidable, the hench, ripped to the hilt Egyptian bodybuilders or their quiet and composed mothers. Though the former have the brute force of a steam train, we’re sure that the the withering looks and eternal disappointment of the latter could phase even the most noble of challengers.
French born, Cairo-based photographer Denis started the ongoing project, called Egypt, Mother and Son, as a way of processing his fascination with these rippling hunks. “I was looking for the best way to talk about my desire,” says Denis. “I thought that staging these boys with their mother allowed me to have the some distance from them as if the mother was filtering my feelings.”
But just as soon as Denis started the project, he quickly stopped again. “I thought I was revealing too much of myself and I wanted to keep a certain restraint; maybe I was a bit worried about what others would think of me.” Finally when a friend convinced him of the power of the images, he decided to continue and has worked on the project ever since.
Seeking candidates at gyms and bodybuilding contests, Denis is keen to photograph subjects at home to create a window to the intimacy between the mother and son. “I always arrive with no prejudice, wishing for some sort of alchemy to form between the three of us and putting everything in place so that they forget themselves in front of the camera,” says Denis.
Perhaps what’s so powerful about the series is the contrast between the physical strength of the men and the tenderness they show to their mothers. The power dynamic shifts between the young and old, with the hyper-masculinity of muscular bodies punctured by their doting mums. “I did this series also to talk about my own relationship with my mother,” Denis adds, “and talk about this strong bond that often unites a boy to his mum.”
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