I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Author Eli Cohen and photographer O Zhang share an intimate look at the question of gender through a series of photos outlining an experiment on body hair in the book “A Body Hair Experiment”.
As an experiment, Eli Cohen removed the hair off the left side of his body and began to journal about the experience. The result is a luscious and intimate photo essay that invites us to challenge assumptions and unearth hidden beliefs around masculinity, femininity, and gender. These tenderly provocative photos and words create a powerful prompt and open a doorway to the vast potential of experiences within our human bodies.
- Can our seemingly inconsequential decisions around body hair limit or expand our relationship to our own bodies, to desire and pleasure, and our range of emotions?
- What paths toward personal and societal transformation lay upon our skin?
- Does it make sense that most sweaty men never consider trimming their underarm hair?
- How much meaning is braided into our body hair?
- Is body hair a marker of masculinity, femininity, gender or genderqueer-ness?
- How would society change if each of us had access and the ability to choose with ease and intention, smooth or hairy, for each and every body part?
The acclaimed O Zhang’s works have appeared at Guggenheim Museum and Miro Art Museum, as well as solo exhibitions in New York, Beijing, London, and Istanbul. In A Body Hair Experiment she works her magic again. These luscious black and white photos will have you going back for more.
A Body Hair Experiment is a gentle and delicious invitation. Eli Cohen presents his body in his vulnerability, showing and telling. His words weave through reflections both personal and societal, while inviting the reader to do the same.
This was a completely short yet powerful read. The author’s intimate and personal writing style allows readers to connect to the deeper themes of sexuality, gender identity, and gender norms as a whole as it relates to the human body and how we perceive it. The thoughtful atmosphere each passage invoked in the reader allowed for a more introspective reading experience that challenged the reader to fully grasp these themes.
For me, the power of this book came from a balance of the author’s moving words and the photographer’s stunning imagery. The themes speak to so many people and reflect on how our society forces certain roles and perspectives on different groups of people. From men not being able to feel comfortable being in touch with a more “feminine” ideal to the need to assign physical and material aspects of our daily life to a specific gender, and having these impact our perception of a person’s sexuality as a whole, really moved me, and to see this stem from something that seems so simple such as a body hair experiment and to see it blossom the way it does was powerful to read.
Heartwarming, thoughtful, and reflective, author Eli Cohen’s “A Body Hair Experiment” is a must-read photography book. Due to its release in January of 2023, the author and photographer both deliver a moving story of redefining our relationship with our bodies and separating society’s expectations from our own feelings and emotions. The passionate way the author shares his story and the deeper themes really will speak to many readers out there. Be sure to grab your copy early 2023.
About the Author
Eli Cohen was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of fifty, he began to share his personal journey through the prevalence of arbitrary gender markers and his transgression of them. He is the founder of Spacious Human, a movement to create thoughtful awareness for human expression.
Cohen is a personal embodiment activist and a facilitator of events and experiences during which people can explore clothing and appearance norms with intention and feel in their bodies the corresponding freedom that alternate choices can provide. He uses the transformative powers of dress and expression to provide humans with the opportunity to excavate their own hidden emotions and beliefs relating to both masculinity and femininity.
Cohen is also a writer, dancer, and speaker, and has been featured on podcasts such as Late Night Health Radio, The Positive Head, and The Pleasure Report, among others. He has given talks at venues such as the Lightning Society and has appeared in the Gothamist.
He is a father, grandfather, and lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.