He explores these topics in his ‘Masculinity Phases’ project (2011-2018), in which he documented males of various ages and ethnicities. With this, De'Souza-Hartley challenges the complexities of masculinity through self-portraiture, video, sound and interviews.
In Masculinity Phase 5, De'Souza-Hartley himself is filmed. The video shows the artist naked in various positions: still, moving, sitting, standing, or curled up on his side or pacing, while accompanied by the meditative sound of his breathing. In this video, along with photographs from Masculinity Phase 3, the artist uses himself as the subject. With this, he claims his space to perform his masculinity through his process, examining what it means to be male. In Masculinity Phase 1, various male sitters are photographed, all with unclothed torsos, showing diverse body types and other physical features. These are presented in conjunction with the sound piece Masculinity Phase 6 (collaboration with composer Ian Dean), which the artist developed in conversation with men and their views on the pressures of masculinity.
The works centre around questions of gender and the stereotypes linked to them, exploring the notions associated with masculinity. Masculinity is often synonymous with level-headedness, which results in the expectation that men remain unemotional. Strength and power, as well as aggression, are stereotypical masculine traits addressed in De'Souza-Hartley’s Masculinity Phases. He is presenting himself and his sitters as ascribing to these traits while simultaneously contradicting them, or he confronts them directly, for example in his sound piece. He prompts an exploration of contradicting the ideal representation of masculinity, allowing for a redefinition of the word by not only himself and his sitters, but everyone who approaches and interacts with his Masculinity Phases.