I’m a London based photographer, predominately shooting people for magazines, advertising agencies and businesses. I was drawn to this creative profession as it allows you to look outwards, learn about other people, and see more of the world. I am fascinated by people’s faces and the stories they tell, with very little interest in my own appearance. The kind of person who fixes their hair whilst walking out the house and talking on the phone. 

This all changed when I started to lose large clumps of hair during the summer of 2021. The first few months were shocking and bewildering. It felt like my face was being rubbed out. I became very self-conscious, often looking at myself in great detail in the mirror and making sure my hair was covering the growing patches on the top of my head.  There wasn’t a monumental life event that had trigged the rapid disappearance of my hair. It did coincide with the ending of a serious relationship and catching covid, although like most people with alopecia, I will never know the exact cause. 

Within six months everything had fallen out. I didn’t recognise the face starting back at me in the mirror. I hadn’t fully appreciated how hair completely frames the face and gives it so much of its character. Now single and with a very clean and smooth head, I carried out my life in much the same way, except for baseball caps becoming mandatory when facing the outside world. I was determined to not let it affect me, but I often felt uncomfortable whether on a shoot or out socialising. It took me a year to be comfortable outside without a baseball cap. I started to wear glasses instead because they made me feel less exposed by protected my eyes and added texture and detail to a face that felt utterly featureless. Now today, I’m fine without either accessory.

Having come through the other side, I decided I wanted to raise awareness about what this devastating experience is like for men. Most people aren’t aware of the psychological challenges men face when losing all their hair. It can feel dehumanising and othering because you look more masculine and feminine at the same time – like a hyper-masculine skinhead but with the smooth legs and chest of a women. Not to mention the lack of hair on the face can give the appearance to some people that you have cancer. Naturally these issues swirling around in your head can be a challenge, which is exacerbated by the lack of an active male community who are willing to speak vulnerably about it. The portrait shoot took place earlier this year in an east London studio, with participants travelling from all over the country to take part. It was great way to bring together a group of men to share their experiences.

Hopefully, together, we have created something that provides encouragement to those who have just been diagnosed with the condition, and fosters a great understanding to the wider world.

Thank you Orlando for sharing your experience, and for creating such fabulous images of some brilliant men with alopecia. One of the participants, Matt, has written his own blog about taking part in Orlando's photography project. Read Matt's blog here. You can also find Orlando's website to explore more of his fantastic photography here