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Liberation through Photography

Booking information

Through the medium of film and photography, this major exhibition considers how masculinity has been coded, performed, and socially constructed from the 1960s to the present day.

Examining depictions of masculinity from behind the lens, the Barbican brings together the work of over 50 international artists, photographers and filmmakers including Laurie Anderson, Sunil Gupta, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien and Catherine Opie.

In the wake of #MeToo the image of masculinity has come into sharper focus, with ideas of toxic and fragile masculinity permeating today’s society. This exhibition charts the often complex and sometimes contradictory representations of masculinities, and how they have developed and evolved over time. Touching on themes including power, patriarchy, queer identity, female perceptions of men, hypermasculine stereotypes, tenderness and the family, the exhibition shows how central photography and film have been to the way masculinities are imagined and understood in contemporary culture.

In order to avoid disappointment, we recommend booking in advance for this exhibition.

Thursdays to Sundays are particularly busy - so if you want to avoid the crowds, we suggest you visit Mondays to Wednesdays.

This exhibition contains some works of an adult nature. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

This exhibition is also made possible through support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Research Grant from Art Fund

Lead sponsor

CALVIN KLEIN seeks to thrill and inspire their audience, while using provocative imagery and striking designs to ignite the senses. They are proud to support the Barbican’s Masculinities: Liberation through Photography exhibition.

Exhibition Guide


‘Every inch is sublime, unabashed and unerring‘
‘This show, investigating what happened to old ideals of masculinity over the last half-century, is fascinating, shocking and seductive‘
‘The show is full of moments where ideas and ideals of masculinity are flipped and reversed.‘
‘This timely show of photography shows maleness at its most touching, tragic and extreme‘
‘It is impressively adult, full of excellently chosen art, more humour than I was expecting, and heap more wisdom.‘
‘This wonderful show may just change your life‘
‘Go and see this highly entertaining exhibition, particularly if you’re a twitchy, self-regarding male of whatever gender or ethnic orientation.‘


Watch: Ivan Michael Blackstock on masculinity

Creator and storyteller Ivan Michael Blackstock talks to us about masculinity and embracing his feminine side in this playful, pastel-hued short film produced in collaboration with NOWNESS as part of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography

campbell addy against a pink background and yellow text saying 'what's your gender'

Watch: Campbell Addy on gender

Photographer and filmmaker Campbell Addy talks to us about gender, growing up as a Jehovah's witness, and coming out in this pastel-hued short film produced in collaboration with NOWNESS as part of  Masculinities: Liberation through Photography

Watch: Harris Reed on gender fluidity

Designer and stylist Harry Reed talks to us about gender and toxic masculinity in this playful, pastel-hued short film produced in collaboration with NOWNESS as part of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography

image of a naked black man holding his knees to his chest

Listen: Masculinities playlist

We take a look at how musicians have dealt with the subject of masculinity to celebrate our upcoming exhibition Masculinities: Liberation through Photography.

Man looks at two photos in gallery

Barbican Talks: Remembering Photographer Peter Hujar with Stephen Koch

Reflecting on the life of photographer, Peter Hujar, Stephen Koch discusses the work and legacy of his dear friend. Hujar's intimate black-and-white portraits, nudes, cityscapes and still-lives memorialise New York’s downtown bohemian scene.

Part of Inside Out

A year exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

School groups

A downloadable teaching resource is available for those planning to visit the exhibition.

A special school group rate is available, Monday to Friday, alongside free exhibition tours which are suitable for both primary and secondary school groups. A discounted group booking applies to all school groups of 10 or more:

•   Secondary and sixth form (up to age 19): £3 per student
•   Students under 14 years: free

For bookings and enquiries please contact the school groups booking line:
Tel: 020 7382 7211 (Mon–Fri 10am–5pm)
Email: [email protected]

Please note, you will need to book at least two weeks in advance if you would like a free exhibition tour as part of your visit. Tours for schools will be available from Wed 4 Mar.

Visiting with your children?

Download and print the Masculinities activity sheet, filled with fun activities encouraging you to get creative.

With thanks


Get closer to the art

Members enjoy invites to exclusive private views and free access to all gallery exhibitions, so they can visit as many times as they like.

Art Gallery