Beyond Beauty with Michael Oliver Love
Breaking through the rigidity of expectation and tradition Pansy – a digital magazine, and its creator, photographer and model, Michael Love, have created a much-needed space for expression in the South African fashion industry. Beautifully subversive, the platform is home to some of the most eye-catching editorials challenging traditional notions of gender you’re likely to come across. Aside from just looking good, Pansy is an important space for exploring fashion and how it’s worn and the power it holds to create a new norm within mainstream representations of masculinity. On The Radar Volume 2 presents a journey through the life and work of Michael Love.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
First things first: Why butts?
Wow! Well. I think there’s something very powerful about subverting the male gaze away from women and onto other men. It juxtaposes a mass-culture of hyper-sexualising women and puts the men in this vulnerable position for a change. They’re also just pretty great.
Second things next: Who is Michael Love?
Little old me? I’m a small town boy living in Cape Town who takes pictures of people and spends too much time on the internet.
How did the journey into photography first begin – was this a lifelong goal or a consequence of many happy accidents?
I’ve always loved photography. I’ve been flipping through editorials in fashion magazines since I could remember. Then I picked up a camera and started shooting pictures of girls in their matric dance dresses in their back gardens and the rest is history.
What do you love to shoot, and what defines a “Michael Love image”?
A boy wearing a pearl earring in some flowing garment with a slight breeze standing in the middle of a vast field with some flowers growing somewhere in the distance.
Tell us about Pansy Magazine and what the impetus was to start it?
Well being the small town boy that I am, I grew up surrounded by a lot of problematic people with old-school ideologies. Having gone on to major in Gender Studies at the University of Cape Town, I began to deeply understand just how problematic the mass culture we’re fed every day is. Thus, the Power Puff girls were born! And Pansy, in order to combat this mass culture in some small way.
“Well South Africa, much like most of the world, conforms to a strict set of norms and traditions…So something like Pansy is still quite a niche to this market and is not everyone’s cup of flaming hot fabulous tea.”
Why do you think there are so few publications like Pansy in the South African market?
Well South Africa, much like most of the world, conforms to a strict set of norms and traditions. Men wear suits and read Men’s Health. Women wear dresses and read Marie Claire. Anything else is quite often greeted with discomfort and uncertainty. So something like Pansy is still quite a niche to this market and is not everyone’s cup of flaming hot fabulous tea.
In making something as unfamiliar and challenging as Pansy, did you ever have to compromise your vision to get the project off the ground?
What do you want the impact of Pansy to be within South African fashion and more broadly speaking, South African society?
Well, I hope it can open people’s minds up to the boundary-less nature of fashion. Clothing is not gendered, it’s just fabric (Or latex or fur or shweshwe, you choose), but it becomes gendered based on how we’re taught our sex is supposed to dress. And this narrow framework is so archaic to still be around, it’s 2018 already – what? Since when! So I would just love to add to the sub-cultural narrative that challenges these expired ideas.
How would you describe the Pansy reader?
They’re knowledgeable, creative, inspiring and don’t give a fuck.
Dream collaborations for the future?
I’d die to see a Pansy cover by Pierre et Gillies. And if Annie Leibovitz could hit me up that would be so cute.
What is the next evolution of Michael and the magazine?
Well, I have no idea what I’m doing but so far so good!
Follow Michael on Instagram
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Photography: Michael Oliver Love