Issues surrounding identity are a driving force in my life and work, and as such, I have long been drawn to making photographic portraits in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the human condition. Over the past decade, my photographs have explored issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community, shifting between an internally focused, subjective examination of myself and an outwardly focused, socially and politically motivated documentation of the LGBTQ community. These perspectives are inextricably linked in my practice. My personal identity as a queer person is inherently political, and the open portrayal of my body, experiences, and family in regard to my own gender identity and sexuality creates a platform from which I can intimately engage with others about their lives and experiences.
My investigation surrounding identity was born out of my personal experience, but over time, my focus has shifted outwards to a more universal concern about how we each come to know our authentic selves and the difficulties that arise when we assert those selves within constraining environments.
Formally, I use medium and large-format cameras to combine a traditional style of photographing with contemporary subject matter. By engaging the viewer visually and emotionally, I am able to illuminate identities that are less well known, creating opportunities for a meaningful exchange to take place between the viewer and my subjects.
Every Breath We Drew
Every Breath We Drew explores the power of identity, desire, and connection through portraits of myself and others. Working within the framework of queer experience and from my actively constructed sense of masculinity, my portraits examine the intersection between private, individual identity and the search for intimate connection with others. I photograph people in their homes, often in their bedrooms, using medium and large format cameras to create a deep, sustained engagement, resulting in an intimate and detailed portrait.
I combine formal portraits, images of couples, self-portraits, and photographs of my own romantic relationship to investigate broader themes of identity and connection while also speaking to my private, individual experience. The photographs of men and masculine individuals act as a kind of mirror; they depict the type of gentle masculinity I am attracted to, yet also the kind I want to embody. Similarly, the photographs of relationships speak to a drive to be seen, understood, and desired through the eyes of a another person; a reflection of the self as the ultimate intimate connection.
By asking others to be vulnerable with me through the act of being photographed, I am laying claim to what I find beautiful and powerful while asking larger questions about how identity is formed, desire is expressed, and intimate connection is sought.
In our society, it is assumed that there are only two genders, both of which come with very specific expectations and roles. I aim to challenge that assumption by portraying people whose identity falls outside of these preconceived notions. Transcendence is a collection of portraits within the transgender and gender-variant community. These photographs show that there are an endless number of gender identities, specific to each person, while illustrating that gender identity and biological sex are two distinct constructs. More broadly, they call into question societal expectations about gender roles and how these expectations affect everyone, including those who are not a part of the transgender community.
Through sharing individual experiences, this work honestly and openly portrays a community that is often overlooked, fetishized, or misrepresented. It raises a dialogue about the fluidity of gender and the ways in which our current societal structure does not allow for variations outside of the mainstream. In an effort to increase understanding, these images portray issues unique to the transgender community while also highlighting the shared experience of being human.
I had chest reconstruction surgery on January 5, 2005 at the age of 18. Two weeks later, the first time I could physically handle my 4 x 5 view camera, I made a picture of my mother and I standing topless next to each other. In this photo, the bruises on my skin are still visible and surgical strips hold together the incision that would become my scars. My mother stands next to me, exposing not only her own body, but also her unwavering support of me and mine.
In 2010, I once again asked my mother to stand next to me, to re-create the original image, but this time in color. She agreed, and since then, we have been photographing ourselves together in the same pose every year. I am interested in how our bodies have changed, and will continue to change, year after year. We are both aging; my hair is greying; I have added, and sometimes removed, tattoos and piercings. We plan to continue making these photographs together every year, for as long as we can.
In addition to these annual photographs, I continue to make individual portraits of my mother, documenting our relationship over time and engaging with larger ideas surrounding family and identity.
Pictures with my Mother
Coupled is a series of twenty large-format Polaroid photographs of queer couples, taken in Boston, MA between 2006 and 2008. Every person has some connection to a female identity, whether past or present. The images are direct and posed, with the same lighting and bold, red background in each image in an attempt to direct the focus entirely onto the subject. The couples are simultaneously unique and similar, becoming almost specimens of a cultural group through repetition of composition. While the images portray a specific group of people at a historic time, they also raise universal questions about attraction, love, and the nature of relationships.