For an article about beauty around the world, a topic Cobb proposed, she felt it was important to illustrate cultures where male beauty is more important than female. She traveled to Papua New Guinea, home to hundreds of distinct indigenous cultural groups, many with traditions of male adornment.
“If you’ve ever seen the elaborate and somewhat ludicrous mating dances of the birds of New Guinea, the tribal customs become totally understandable and logical. The sing-sings are a glorious and improbable sight—with an undercurrent of danger—that I’ll never forget,” Cobb says of the annual cultural celebration where she made this image of a young Asaro mudman. Distinct from other tribes that are known for their colorful body paint and elaborate costumes intended to mimic the local male birds-of-paradise, the Asaro cover their bodies in ghostly clay and don fearsome masks for dances traditionally meant to intimidate their enemies.