Naked honesty at Bare Truth exhibition

Naked honesty at Bare Truth exhibition

Auckland's North Shore currently features an exhibition of topless men -- but it's not what you think.

Bare Truth is a collection of 40 black and white photos of men showing their vulnerability and their pride.

For Dave Grant, it was picturing him as he'd never been pictured before, as he was once certainly not be proud of his body.

"When I was very young I got quite a large burn on my chest and I've hidden it," he says.

"This is the first photo that's ever been taken of me like this and I've just turned 50, so it's taken a while for me to get here. This is a very healing process."

Mr Grant's wife volunteered him for the shoot and he's grateful.

"I think this is a therapeutic step so that hey, I'm going out there but hey, this is who I am, this is really me," he says.

And Mr Grant is not the only one baring his soul for the first time. Photographer Ilan Wittenberg found many with life's battle scars.

"And when they take their shirt off I suddenly discovered all these tattoos that remind them to be clean of drugs, or remind them of loved ones who have died or simply huge scars of a triple bypass or chemotherapy or some operation they went through.

"It simply reminds them of how fragile we are," Wittenberg says.

"I think it's important that men are shown to be vulnerable and not just, you know, big tough guys. That you get your kit off and you bare yourself, you expose yourself in a different kind of way."

John Botton is a photographer too, a friend of Wittenberg's; not always the proud man staring back at the lens, but rather someone who had to fight to get noticed.

"I had acne as a child so I did have a self-image problem, and looking at myself in the portrait now I'm quite proud of myself," he says.

"I think I've earned my scars and they look good."

Wittenberg has a portfolio of more than 100 photographs, but it took time and courage for subjects to agree.

"Four people said no to me, four said maybe and two said yes but only one showed up, so that's the statistics behind this," he says.

But there's a serious message too: men should embrace their vulnerability and not feel any stigma in asking for help, emotionally or for their health.

"They show courage they're proud of their bodies, they feel comfortable in their own skin even though some are not as lean or muscular, this is beautiful," Wittenberg says.

The exhibition continues at Northart Gallery for another two weeks.