Last April 2013, I had the great honor of photographing and exhibiting the first Intersections: Boyd Diversity exhibit by Social Outreach Seattle that accompanied a VERY large group of LGBT and allied citizens in Seattle for a broad discussion of Body Diversity in the LGBT community. Here’s the original series of posts I made about the exhibit and the “stories” of many of the models: http://kapchur.us/?s=SOSea
With the very first posting about the exhibit I had a commenter, David, who asked the same question a couple times and each time I replied my reply drifted off and never reached his ultimate point. Every time I started reading his questions I went deep into my own philosophical mind about the overall exhibit and missed his one MAIN question: “Why did you choose the pose that you did for each of the models?”
The question was right there, in black and white, every time and I still somehow missed replying to it! So, here’s my reply:
Hi David! I was just re-reading the comment stream on this post and discovered that I never really answered your ultimate question: “why that pose”.
With every single model in this exhibit I spent the first few minutes interviewing them about “their body identity” to figure out what the love or hate about their body.
Sometimes the answer was obvious and sometimes it was buried. For example, Mary hated the “tags” all around her neck (photo to the right). She’d always been ashamed of them and thought they were disgusting. So, in our conversations we discovered that PERHAPS, if she chose to “feature” that feature, then she could regain the power it had taken from her for all those years. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it. She’s SO proud of that photo and of her own bravery to put herself out there.
So, going a step further, sometimes people wouldn’t directly “know” what they liked or disliked about their bodies. Then we’d start discussing some of “their story” in general; what makes them who they are, etc. Through that, I’d get an idea of an image they either ALREADY had for themselves or one that I could envision them wanting for themselves.
The next part of the process was me leading them and feeling them out on how comfortable they were with their body. How comfortable they were at different levels of nudity. How comfortable they were by showing different angles of their body. I wanted to feel their limits… but without going TOO far over them. After all, I DID want this to be about their body, but not in a traditional sense. I wanted it to be about their relationship with their body! So, through the process of the interview and then gently stripping them down until they cringed and then showing them their beauty (even pre-editing), every single person got sort of a rush out of the process!
Sure, we had a couple of people who had done professional modeling before, but even those people chose to challenge themselves OR what the world thought of their body. For example, Victor! Victor has been modeling since his teens (no one really knows how long ago that was, but I suspect somewhere between 10-35 years ago). However, in recent years Victor has been favored to model as Victoria Victor, the genderless model. Victor’s idea for his pose was to challenge the pre-conceived notions of what it meant to be a genderless model. His challenge? Note the HUGE belt buckle that says “TOP”! I don’t have direct quotes from him about the “facts” behind the statement of “TOP”, but in our conversations before (and since) he’s always felt that everyone assumes that because he’s petite and “genderless” that he must be a bottom (sexual position reference which he neither confirms nor denies). At the exhibit, as people walked by the photo they either cocked their heads as if to say, “I don’t get it… really?” Or they give a quick smile to say, “fuck you stereotype”. I’m pretty sure this is exactly how Victor wanted them to react!
I had no intention of this being an exhibit of “everyone’s junk” or “come see my junk”. You’ll even note that the few photos that contained male genitals, I made sure the “existence” was subtle. I wasn’t going for a shock factor on my audience. I was merely trying to show the bravery of the model and how far they push their own comfort levels. One model in fact, took a very long time after seeing the photos to decide that he would actually WANTED a full frontal nudity shot of himself (of course after my very intricate edits to make sure “it” wasn’t the focus of the piece. As for the models with breasts (some identifying as trans-men, some as women) their comfort levels varied. I found it interesting that the trans identified men freely exposed their still-existing female breasts, when the female identified models took on a traditional “mysterious” candor, wanting to be more subtle in how they expose their breasts. Each pose unique to the next and exemplifying that individual.
I hope this helps to explain some of the creative process that went into the selection of the various poses in the exhibit. Like David suggested in his original question, yes there were LOTS of poses and hundreds of photos to sort through. It was an essential part of my job as the photographer to select the pose and lighting style that would fit that model into their body story.
I hope you’ll have time on Wednesday night (2/26/2014) to join Social Outreach Seattle for our next photo exhibit. Here’s a link to the Facebook RSVP page! “Lesbian Life Forum” and BODY DIVERSITY PHOTO PROJECT at City Hall“