This story appeared in the 2016 Photo issue of VICE magazine.
"I've always liked playing with boys, from softball to hardball, and I love watching them, the way some like to watch us," Jill Freedman said. "I realize now I've been watching them for years, only I never thought about it that way. I thought in terms of adventure, excitement, curiosity, action…"
Freedman, whose prolific, award-winning street photography has recorded more than five decades of life in New York City, picked up a camera in the 60s and used it as a ticket into all the boys clubs she could find: the bars, the games, the firehouses, the police stations. She hung around long enough that the men stopped trying to impress her, so she could observe them in their natural states: comfortable around their own, telling jokes and lies, playing or fighting, and sometimes just being quiet.
In the 70s and 80s, she released books that portray the lives of those she thought of as "the good guys." Firehouse is a record of the men who fought fires in the Bronx and Harlem, whom she views as heroes. Street Cops examines New York City's police, and Freedman saw a distinction between the men she profiled, who she believed didn't fit the popular perception of a force rife with corruption, and the officers she called "bad guys," who liked to hurt people. But this unpublished portfolio goes outside those exclusive boys clubs and examines the more expansive identity of manhood. It's a culmination of her decades-long study of all types of men, seen through one woman's eyes. She photographed them with women, with children, with other men, and alone to understand what they're really like—funny, disgusting, adorable, crude.
"One minute you love them, the next you want to kill them," she said. "Just ask any woman."