It’s no secret that when it comes to the men’s beauty lens, there’s one standard.

Chiseled abs. A tall stature. High cheekbones. Flawless skin.

This idea of a man’s ideal look has had a lasting impact on generations of men and their own self-esteems. But what happens if you peel open the veil of perfection when it comes to models? What if there wasn’t photoshop, beautiful makeup or styling? Would they more closely resemble ~real~ guys?

SEE ALSO: The beauty in blemishes

That’s one of the inspirations behind Osvaldo Ponton, a New York-based photographer’s latest work, “Catch Your Breath.” The series captures male models in their least glamorous light. Without makeup, wardrobe, with sweat on their brows and blood running on their cheeks, the models look every bit human – and relatable. While the photo series started out as test shoots for models, it evolved into something meaningful. “It morphed into showcasing the beauty of different skin tones and skin types,” he tells Very Good Light.

To get these guys in their most raw state, Osvaldo asked each to take a run around the block before the shoot, for up to 30-minutes. The result? A series of powerful photographs that show men in all of their perfect imperfections. Some are shown with hickies, while others showcase their body acne. Others show off their sanguine complexions, scars, and callouses. It proves that behind every perfect seeming model, is a real human who’s filled with ‘imperfections.’ And that’s beautiful.

Below, we speak with Osvaldo about this initiative. 

Talk to us about ‘Catch Your Breath’ and why you started it?

Catch your Breath started because I wanted something to shoot that wouldn’t require a full fashion team on board. I thought male model portraits would be the best way to go, but as soon as I started, I realized I needed something a bit different to make the photos more than simple test portraits. So I had the idea to send the guys out for a run and shoot them as soon as they came back.


And then what happened?

In the beginning, the goal was just to make fun, different portraits, but the project grew. It quickly morphed into showcasing the beauty of different skin tones and skin types. The fun in getting a bit of an unguarded moment, showing that there is beauty in the raw moments.

There are so many photos of men who are sweating, dripping, some red-faced. Why was this important to capture?

It was important to showcase that there is beauty in the colors, sweat, and textures that arise in the skin from physical exercise. So often we try to hide all those things with makeup, retouching, etc. I think pimples, red patches, sweat, etc. all add to the individual’s particular beauty.

What’s the process like? Do you send guys on a mile run and make them come back?

I ask the models to go out and take a run until the feel out of breath. Some models go on 30-minute runs, others, 5-min runs. Some sweat, others don’t. Everyone reacts differently; some guys are in excellent shape so it’s almost impossible to make them sweat from just a quick run.

Why take photos of scabs and scars?

To me, all of these marks, be it a permanent scar or a transitory scab or blemish. It adds personality and beauty. When photographed closely, it’s surrounded by the rest of the skin they become these markings in the topography of the body.

What do you ultimately hope your photos will be able to do?

Hopefully bring a smile to peoples faces. But also have people see models in a more vulnerable moment and with more vulnerable features and realize that the vulnerability and redness and sweat, the scars, etc. don’t detract, but instead, add to what makes someone beautiful.

For more from “Catch Your Breath,” head here