Sunday, January 30, 2011

Harvard Art Museum acquisition

I am so excited to announce that the Harvard Art Museum has acquired ten of my photographs for their permanent collection.  The curators chose the following ten pieces from A Moment Collected: Photographs from the Harvard Art Museum, and I am greatly honored that these photos found a home in the very museum in which they were made.  I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone at the art museum who helped me make this project a reality, with an extra special thank you to the photography curators, Debi Kao and Michelle Lamuniere, for their support and encouragement.

Photographs from this body of work will be included in my upcoming exhibit at Gallery Kayafas in April 2011, where a book and a limited edition portfolio will also be available.  

Al, Crew Chief, Custodial, 2008

Mary, Custodian, 2008

Tom, Director, 2008

Karl, Security Guard, 2008

Virginia, Assistant Curator of American Art, 2008

Rembrandt, 2008

Lecture Hall, 2008

Sculpture (packed), 2008

Ceiling Lights, 2008

Plastic (packed sculpture), 2008

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Transcendence- Aaron

Aaron, 2010

My name is Aaron.  I am 58 years old, single, and identify as a heterosexual male (sometimes Transgender- depending on the circumstances).  I enjoy working out and sharing meaningful conversation, especially about spirituality and the politics of religion.  I am a social justice activist and believe we can (and must) change the world to make it a better, kinder, more just place.  What you may not know just by looking at me is that I am a licensed clergy and a chaplain. - Aaron

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Transcendence- Tony

Tony, 2010

When I realized I was transgender I didn't do cartwheels. I didn't know anyone else like me. I remember going to the beach and crying, wondering if I wanted to live. Wondering, if my life was so unbearable now, how would it be if I came out as trans? 

Then something happened... I’m not sure what. I realized that I had the opportunity to create myself into the person I always wanted to be. I remember asking myself, what do I need to do to become that person? There was a very long list of “to dos.”  I knew that the anger I carried would come in the way of the person I wanted to create, so I worked very hard to let go of the anger. I forgave everyone who abused me, including myself. Once I let go of the anger, my soul filled with compassion. 

I believe that what moved me to be a Transgender Youth Advocate and the Co-founder and President of the Jim Collins Foundation was how my life changed when I finally felt like I had a community and that I wasn't alone anymore. 

I can honestly say that I would not change anything about my past. I truly believe that my past is what created “Tony.” - Tony

Friday, January 14, 2011

Transcendence- Alex

Alex, 2010

My name is Alejandro.   I identify as Trans and queer, having always been attracted to both women and men.  Knew I should have been born a boy at a very young age.   Didn't want dolls or girl-ish things.  Never felt female.  Girls called me Tomboy.  Boyish.  Mannish. Puberty felt like a cruel joke with its blood and bras.  Didn't know where to look in the high school locker rooms.  Embraced my bisexuality in college.  I was frustrated with my body, almost trying to live my life in spite of it.  Fell in love with the curly red-haired girl.  She broke my heart like no other has or ever will.  Enjoyed fuck-buddy romps with a campus bad boy soccer player.  Came out as queer. 
In 2008, someone I met saw the man trapped inside me.  Alive doesn't explain how I felt.  I did what I had to do.  Sometimes it seems as if nothing has changed except my body.  Other times, it's as if I'm doing everything for the first time all over again.  I used to think taking the steps to transition was the most selfish thing I could ever do.  All the people I was afraid of losing; my family, my friends, the women I loved were in the balance.  The ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate selfish act.  Quid pro quo.  I was right.  It was selfish.  But I did it anyway. And I’d do it again, only sooner.  It is never too late to live your life as who you are. 
My family has nothing but love and support for me.  Old friends I've kept in touch with continue to be especially dear friends.  Among my new friends are some of the most courageous and extraordinary people:  Aaron, Jesse, and Tony.  I can honestly say I would not be here if it wasn't for each one of those men.  Each one stepping into my life when he did was nothing short of divine intervention.  Yes, some folks have distanced themselves, some need time to get used to me, or just stopped talking to me. What is lost is not missed.  I expected as much from the start.  What was not anticipated was the community, and the acceptance.  I am so not alone.  I am free to be myself.  Still queer after all these years.  I am my own man.  -Alex

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chest surgery adventure, Day 3

We're on day three of the chest surgery photo adventure.  Alex had his surgery yesterday around 10:30 a.m., and everything went very well.  There was a mall near the surgery center, so Olex and I entertained ourselves while we waited for Alex.  We found a Chik-fil-A and had some lunch, and it dawned on me that I hadn't eaten Chik-fil-A since I was two days post-op from my own chest surgery in Plano, Texas on January 5, 2005.  Apparently I only eat Chik-fil-A around chest surgery events.  Funny coincidence.

We got Alex back to the hotel around 4:00, where he settled in nicely and quickly fell asleep, but not before I snapped this celebratory photo of him feeling very excited about his new chest.  Once he fell asleep, I took my first 4 x 5 photographs of him post-op.

Alex, 3 hours post-op and settled into the hotel

He is healing remarkably well.  This morning he even walked outside and sat in front of the hotel for a while.

One day post-op, sitting outside

Today, after he woke up for his midday pain pill, he had enough energy to pose for a few photographs.  I took his portrait sitting upright in his bed, his hoodie unzipped to show his binder and drains.  I am so excited to see how these images turn out.  There is something very beautiful about the way the light falls on him from the window by his bed and about the redness of the drains against an otherwise white background.  I am really thankful he is letting me be so involved with his chest surgery and allowing me to photograph him all along the way.  He seems pretty excited to see all of the photos, too.  I took this photo through my ground glass after I had exposed a few sheets of film of the same shot.  It's a little fuzzy, but it's making me pretty excited to see the real photo.

Alex through my view camera

It has been interesting for me to see how much I do or don't remember about my own surgery process while being here.  I find myself somewhat subconsciously mimicking the way my mom, her partner Chris, and my friend Amy (all of whom were with me for surgery) acted towards me.  It is amazing to see how familiar this whole process feels to me, despite the fact that it has been six years since I went through it.  Yesterday in recovery, I spoke with one of the nurses quite a bit about Alex's surgery and the experiences of other patients, and at one point I told her how surprised I was to hear that many of Dr. Garramone's patients report hardly needing any pain medication following surgery.  This was shocking to me, as I was on intense pain meds for several days before weaning myself off and switching to Advil.  She told me that over the past six years, there have been great improvements in the tools and procedures used to do this surgery, which often result in less pain and easier healing.  I know everyone handles pain and surgery differently, but it was very encouraging to think that great strides have been made in such a relatively short period of time.  

I am honored to be a witness to Alex's process and am glad I am here with him to help out in any way I can.  So far, we have been having a wonderful time and all is going well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Transcendence" featured on Italian photography site Tevac Photo

I am thrilled that work from Transcendence is featured today on the Italian photography website Tevac Photo.  Thanks to Eugenio for putting together this wonderful piece!

Sam and Gina on Sunday morning, 2006

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 1 in Florida

After a somewhat delayed flight out of Boston yesterday, I arrived in Florida last night and was delighted to step outside of the terminal into 70 degree weather.  Apparently, I've forgotten what it's like to feel warm, especially in January.  After a cab ride and lots of palm tree sightings, I arrived with my friends at the hotel where we're staying for Alex's surgery.  I have never been so excited to see a 7-Eleven across the street in my life- it provided dinner last night and has proved invaluable for early morning coffee runs.

Palm trees in front of the hotel

It is amazing to me that I first photographed Alex almost 3 years ago, at which point he had been on testosterone for exactly two months, and now here I am in his hotel room on the eve of his chest surgery.  I took a few portraits of him and his chest this morning, knowing that I had better get it right, because this was the only opportunity I had to photograph him in his current state.  After tomorrow, his chest will never look like this again.  He is very gracious with allowing me to photograph him so intimately.

Alex filling out paperwork

I went with him to his pre-op appointment, where I met his surgeon, Dr. Charles Garramone.  Not only did Dr. Garramone agree to let me photograph him, he was actually pretty excited about it and was more than willing to sit for me as long as I needed him to.  He said he felt like Abe Lincoln being photographed, which I found endearing.  After I made his portrait, I sat in his chair and let him look through my view camera to see, essentially, the shot I had just taken.  He also graciously allowed me to photograph during the pre-op appointment, which I did, though I only took a few pictures.  He is a very nice person and is also, from what I've been told, a very accomplished surgeon.  It was an honor to meet him.

Me with my camera gear on the way to the pre-op appointment

Tomorrow morning, I'll go with Alex to his surgery appointment, and then it's back at the hotel for pain meds, rest, and some more pictures as soon as he feels up to it.  I am thrilled with how things are going so far, and very much looking forward to whatever the rest of the week brings.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A chest surgery photo adventure

I'm busy packing my bags in preparation for a trip with a friend of mine to Florida, where he is having chest surgery next week.  I first photographed him in 2007, when he had just began taking testosterone.  A few months ago, he told me he was planning to have chest surgery and asked if I would be interested in photographing him again, and of course I was.  Though originally he asked me to photograph him post-op in Boston, one conversation led to another, and he is so graciously allowing me to accompany him to Florida to photograph and be a part of his experience.

I am thrilled to be involved in his journey, and I am greatly humbled that he trusts me enough to let me be a part of what is bound to be a very intense and personal experience.  I remember the intensity and excitement of my own chest surgery, though now that I am 6 years post-op, I almost can't remember what it felt like to inhabit a body that didn't feel like mine.  Though it took me years to get used to my chest, now it feels like it has always been this way, flat and masculine.

I have also received permission to photograph his surgeon, which I am greatly looking forward to.  Part of my goal with this project is to include providers who work with our community, and this will be the first portrait I make of a surgeon.

I could never fully articulate how grateful I am that people continue to allow me into their lives to make photographs, nor could I ever express how profoundly my connections with other queer and trans folks affect me.  I am very much looking forward to this trip, as it will be the first time I have spent a full week experiencing and documenting someone else's experience with chest surgery.  I've got bags full of cameras and film, a few clothes, my journal, and my copy of "Butch is a Noun" by S. Bear Bergman, which seems like appropriate reading for such a journey.

Below are the two photographs I took of Alex in 2007.  I can only imagine how thrilled he must be that after next week, he will never have to wear that binder again.  Alex also has a website about his transition for those who are interested.

Alex, 2007

Alex's Binder, 2007

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Transcendence- Jesse

Jesse, 2010

Jesse, 2010

When I was a kid, I didn't feel like a guy or a girl. My transition wasn't about becoming a man, but my own personal version of the middle.  An amalgamation of my favorites, to suit my everyday and long term needs. No pressure from either side, I'm free to do what I want. - Jesse

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Transcendence- Jaime and Michelle

We got together in 2007. We tell everyone we met at a Monster Truck Rally but really we met online. Those are really the same thing anyway. -Jaime and Michelle

Jaime and Michelle, 2010


I knew Jaime was genderqueer before we met and that he would eventually transition. I had never dated anyone who was trans even though most of my exes were on the butch side. We opened up to each other a lot before we met, writing emails and talking about ourselves in a way that was surprising, I think, to both of us, since we didn’t know each other and neither of us had a history of striking up internet relationships with random strangers. I totally harassed him into meeting me but we haven’t left each other’s side since.

In the early stages of our relationship we talked all the time about his transitioning, and it was scary for me. Being the femme partner of a transguy is both exhilarating and difficult. It is difficult since I’m also a mom and people automatically assume I’m straight. I bristle against losing the little bit of visibility I have as a queer. And it is exhilarating because I get to share this crazy transformative experience with someone I love with every bit of my life and body.  All of the fears I had haven’t disappeared, but they seem to matter less now than they did a few years ago.

I guess that is because at the end of the day, when we are wrapped around each other and falling asleep and whispering and talking and fucking, the only thing that matters is the gift of what each of us is and how we share what we are with each other. Jaime has challenged me to grow in ways I didn’t think were possible—he makes me question all of my preconceived notions about who and what I am. He has helped me come back into touch—literally and figuratively—with the radical possibilities of living truthfully to oneself without sacrificing empathy for others. Watching him transition and make sense of his body, his refusal to not live in it even if that can be painful, his desire to get beyond the pain of that and still find utter joy and pleasure in it—god, it makes me hot for him at the same time that it helps me relate to my own body in healthier ways. 


I think part of what brought us close initially, besides -or laced into- the visceral attraction, was shared -though in no ways identical- experiences of growing up in rural northern new England and living “closeted” lives without queer role models, peers, or reference points.  We met at points in both of our lives when we were striving to both reconcile the past, places and selves we’d “left behind,” and simultaneously live out /claim/authenticate whole versions of ourselves. …on our own terms. Michelle immediately inspired me -through her refusal to be quiet, invisible, or defined by others as well as her love and acceptance of who I was and who I was becoming- to take more chances, to find my voice, and to live my truth outwardly …in ways I’d previously held back from or shied away from.

In my ideal world, there could be as many gender identities as there are people; No longer any need for narrow, rigid dichotomous categories used to rank and order people within an oppressive, hierarchical, sexist homophobic system. We would also update our language a touch to reflect these more nuanced, fluid, multiplicitous identities. In THIS world however, I have a vexed relationship with gender categories and with how to express and explain my own identity. In order to be a “legible,” viable social entity, it seems, one must “choose” one and only one (a or b, x or y, man or woman, he or she).  However, I feel like both/neither/none of the above/all of the above. Further complicating the scenario for such a die-hard social constructionist as I, is my relationship with my body and my desire to physically alter it through hormones and surgeries. I would prefer mass social - political - cultural transformation to this individual physical transition, but in the mean time it helps me to live more comfortably and empowered in my own skin.