Within the past week, I have had several experiences that have left me moved, inspired, and amazed at how photography acts as a means of connection and intimacy for me, in the most surprising ways.
Over the weekend, I did a photoshoot for The (Trans)Gender Series, and I can't wait to develop the film. I have been working on this project for so many years that the amount of time I spend on it necessarily ebbs and flows. This is partially due to the fact that I prefer to meet subjects in a more natural way than taking out an ad looking for trans or gender variant folks. There are times when I have a long list of people to photograph and there are times when I don't, and I focus on other projects. Recently, I've had a resurgence of opportunities to work on this project and to share the work with others. Just this fall, I have had photos from The (Trans)Gender Series in 3 shows, which has led me to meet new people and hear their stories. I have also been inspired by recent events such as hearing Ivan E. Coyote and S. Bear Bergman read, the I AM: Trans People Speak campaign that the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition released last week, the Cut, Healed, Mine show at The Meeting Point, and many other events and experiences. I was recently contacted by someone expressing his interest in being photographed for this series, and he set up a photo shoot for me with 7 transguys! I am very much looking forward to this shoot and am humbled by his interest and generosity of his time and energy.
My favorite part about photography is that it connects me with people in a way that I would completely miss out on if I weren't photographing them. I find myself hearing very personal stories and am humbled that people feel safe enough to share these stories with me. I photographed someone this past week for A Place so as to Stay, and because she had seen the photograph of myself and my mom on my website, we got into a very personal conversation about my journey as well as recent struggles she had been going through. I found this experience particularly moving because we hardly knew each other prior to the shoot, and the photo I had asked to take of her wasn't about gender or surgery in any way. I was reminded that by putting myself out there, I am opening up a door for other people to put themselves out there in an equally intimate way. I was still reeling from this wonderful experience when I got two e-mails from people I have never met before, asking me about my experience with chest surgery and thanking me for making my work, telling me it helped inspire them to be who they are. This kind of feedback is what I live for, why I make my work, why I find photography so compelling. It connects me with people, and them with me, and hopefully with others, in a way that is unique to this particular form of expression. It has the power to start dialogue and to change minds and hearts.
Sometimes I get so focused on things like balancing exhibition deadlines, scheduling photo shoots, and making time to work in the darkroom that I need these sorts of intimate experiences to cause me to take a step back from the practicality of it all and remind me why I do what I do. While most of my writing and talking about my work emphasizes the exciting parts of being a photographer, like meeting amazing people and having exhibitions, there are also times when it feels hard, both to be a genderqueer person in a binary society and to be trying to positively affect the world through photography.
So thank you to everyone who has so generously sat for a photograph, to everyone who has shared their life with me, and to everyone who has written or told me such kind words about my work. I appreciate it all more than you know.