Act of Looking
Act of Looking series, 2017. Digital photographs. Currently 12"x18", may produce larger in the future.
Act of Looking 6 and Act of Looking 20 shown in "The Photographic Nude" curated by Christa Blackwood: here.
I remember being 10 12 15 years old, thinking about growing up. My brothers joked that I’d be the wild aunt who took their kids on adventures. I knew I’d do that, but couldn’t see myself as the person who would be doing that.
Potential careers felt the same way - architect, adventurer, cartoonist - I identified with these focused pursuits, but couldn’t envision myself as an adult in these roles.
Thoughts about my future floated on like fever dreams - musings in fuzzy scenery lacking a concrete reference point. My imaginings had the same dampened yellow quality as the past, when my parents grew up.
I felt dread at the inevitability of the future, when I’d have to be someone.
As a transgender person, there are not many places I can go for nuanced and complex images of people like me.
I didn’t grow up seeing pictures of what my body would look like, and I can’t walk into a newsstand and see myself. Even on the internet, images of transgender people often appear in fetishized ways, or are limited by their context. And while I now live as a man, I happily do not see myself represented among the backslapping, flattened men in media, posturing in a way so normalized they don’t know they are doing it.
The main lack I feel is not the dearth of images of transgender people, but that there is not an authentic and shared way to look at a body like mine. Whether because I am transgender, or because I have not had “top” or “bottom” surgery, my body is incongruous with the way that we are taught to see bodies. In a way, all of our bodies are. We are all more complex, specific, weird, and filled with a spirit all our own, than we should ever hope to overcome.
Maybe there never will be an comprehensive way to look at a body “like mine”, unless it is a way to look at mine, specifically. And the same for all of us. In this project, I create a new lexicon of ways to look at a body, which are inclusive of ways to look at my body. Sometimes, we can only see what we already know how to see. What ways of looking, enabled by a self-timer, a tripod, and blessedly rich natural light, see me?
Birthdays were disorienting as a kid. Every year, I felt the promise of my birthday tugging at me, filling the humid lethargy of the start of summer.
And then, suddenly, it was my birthday - I had crumpled wrapping paper, I had extinguished candles, and I had mouthfuls of too-fudgy Duncan Hines, reminding me that I hadn’t turned into me, yet.
Currently seeking exhibition opportunities for this work.