I had some new headshots taken, with the aim to actually capture some joy and pleasure and fun, instead of someone who has “been through the ringer” and “in the wars”. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about my business and what I’m doing and how I’m representing myself, in no small part thanks to the Catalyst Conference I attended in DC in March and Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra training for sexuality professionals.
BD Swain (who is a butch kinky erotica writer—if you aren’t following her blog, you should be) hooked me up with Meg Allen, whose portraits immediately resonated with me. Meg is also working on a portrait project she’s calling BUTCH which features—wait for it—masculine of center folks.
Working with Meg and talking about photographing butch identity, what makes it different than photographing other gender presentations, how to encourage butches to feel more at home in our bodies through photography, and a dozen other things, made me think about all the other butch portrait projects that have been popping up lately, like BUTCH: Not like the other girls by SD Holman and the Butch/Femme Photo Project by Wendi Kali. I’m starting to put together a panel for the BUTCH Voices conference that is full of photographers of butches and I want to address exactly those questions.
BUTCH Voices call for proposals is open, by the way! Submit art, workshops, lectures, panels, or performance ideas before June 1.
I know for me, having my photograph taken changed significantly after I came to a butch identity. I actually started liking how I looked in photos. I actually kind of recognized myself. I spent some years obsessively taking self-portraits, from 1997 to about 2002, and maintaining personal photo blogs online, and one of the major reasons for that was experimenting with visual representations and markers of gender. After I came to a butch identity that I was pretty solid and comfortable with, somewhere in 2001 or so, I took fewer and fewer self-portraits and felt much more at ease having my photo taken by others. Having professional photos of me taken, starting in about 2006, has continued me on that journey of finding myself through visual representation and continuing to feel comfortable with the way that I look, my gender, and my body.
Which is yet another reason why I started craving new headshots for the summer. I want it to reflect where I am, and how I feel about myself and my work. They needed to be updated.
Here’s about 30 of my favorites from the shoot. I’m still experimenting with which will be my new avatar for Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and for the sidebar and my about pages, so I might pick one and then change it up in a week or so, test some of them out.
If you can’t see the photos, here’s a link to the full set on Flickr.
Here’s the other thing about these photos: they look like me. They don’t really look like “Sinclair,” they don’t look like some persona I’m putting on, they look like me, how I look on a pretty much daily basis, how I look when I’m hanging out with friends or teaching a workshop. Maybe if I would’ve dressed up more that would be different? Maybe it’s the sweater over the polo, too casual for this shoot somehow.
Not that that’s a bad thing, exactly. I am aiming for more integration. The difference between me and my “Sinclair” persona/character gets thinner and thinner. It’s just kind of … odd. Unexpected. Interesting.
What do you think? Which ones are your favorites? Any advice for headshots or representing my work?
I’m getting some new headshots done today by the talented Meg Allen, with the aim of reflecting me as a little bit more west coast and a little more joyous.
All the recent headshots of me, while technically beautiful, like this one by Kristy Boyce, which is one of the most gorgeous shots of me I’ve seen, have me looking so … miserable. The agony just seeps through and it’s depressing. I can’t use it for much. “I don’t mind earnest, or stern, or serious—I play all of those things a lot, and it kind of goes along with the bad-ass-top thing I am portraying,” I wrote to Meg this morning. “But these just look … sad.”
I keep thinking about this head shot of Sherman Alexie’s from a few (10?) years back—he’s open mouth laughing and it’s gorgeous. I remember being captivated by it when it was on the back of his book Ten Little Indians, and thinking how it was so unconventional, and also had so much deep joy.
So that’s what’s on the agenda for today.
When Kristen & I were in Toronto for the Unholy Harvest kink conference in October, we had a photo shoot with Kristy Boyce who is doing a project called What Dyke Looks Like. She’s a professional who had a vision, and Kristen and I were at her apartment and out in an alley in many different settings in front of many different backdrops with all kinds of light and flashes and fancy things to help her complete her vision. We had a blast.
These are just a few of the shots—there are many, many more and I’m excited to show you even more. Kristen looked so hot and there are so many of her in lingerie and a bomber jacket and looking badass and epic.
All this is to say, Kristy is coming to New York City! She’s shooting folks here this week, 8-15 January, and is specifically in need of subjects who are dyke-identified. If you might want to have your photo taken, contact her directly to make an appointment: email@example.com.
Joey, my barber and the owner of Tomcats Barber Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, took this shot of me on Friday after he gave me a shape-up (apparently that’s the word for a trim). They do classic and retro cuts primarily, though they have a whole bunch of new barbers there these days that do just about anything you could want. Kristen just got her hair colored and cut there and it’s darker and very pinup.
It always makes me feel better to get a good haircut. Thanks, Joey.
Photographer Bill Wadman has taken numerous shots of me in the last few years. Most recently and notably, he took the photo of me against the brick wall with the black and red flogger that I’ve been using as my avatar on most sites. He also took the shot of me shaving Kristen’s legs with a pink razor in the claw-foot bathtub with my sleeves rolled up.
He came over yesterday to take some more shots of me, partly for my upcoming fall and spring 2012-2013 travel promotions, and he wanted to take some Avedon-inspired shots up on my roof against a white backdrop. These are the best of the best results, and I think they are amazing. There are a few more of me in front of my gender/queer bookshelves; those will be in the PDFs that go out to colleges next week.
Thank you, Bill!
Kristen’s Friday Femme Conference outfit
Jessica Halem hosts FemmeSpeak, the spoken word night
Fran Fucking Varian reads at FemmeSpeak
my outfit for Saturday
Kristen + Liz from Rhino Girl Media + B
Maggie (of the Femme Show) & Dora, both organizers with MadFemmePride in Boston
Shilo McCabe’s hanky flowers for flagging at the vendor room
Bulldagger caucus, organized by Sasha T. Goldberg
butch butts after post-bulldagger meetup coffee
Kristen + Jessica Halem in lace at the FemmeWerq performance night
wait, how’d that photo get in here? our hotel bed was comfortable …
Do you remember the Impossible Couture series, where Najva Sol took portraits and Molly Crabapple added embellishments? Najva did another series of portraits, this time genderqueer (mostly) nudes, and Molly did another series of drawings over them.
The result is Transmography: Thirteen Fairytale Portraits of Queers Beyond the Gender Binary, and I’m one of the models in the show. I might have gotten naked on my rooftop in Brooklyn. Maybe. Just sayin’.
The show opens next week, Thursday June 7th, from 6-9pm in New York and San Francisco Lomography stores.
Transmography: Thirteen Fairytale Portraits of Queers Beyond the Gender Binary
by Molly Crabapple and Najva Sol
Transmogrify, Verb: To transform, esp. in a surprising or magical manner
From poets to porn-stars, computer nerds to community gardeners, artists to activists: these portraits capture some of the real gender warriors today. They are trans, genderqueer, or just gender-fabulous, and they deserve their own magical realm.
Each portrait was shot by Najva Sol with a lomo camera, then embellished by Molly Crabapple. Show sponsored by Lomography.
Show Opens At Lomography stores in New York AND San Francisco
June 7th, 6-9pm
New York Lomography Store
41 West 8th Street
Manhattan, NY 10011
San Fran Lomography Store
309 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
I’m going to do my best to at least stop by the New York show, though it does make me a little nervous to see myself (naked!) on a wall. But the shots I’ve seen so far are stunning, I love that one above. Can’t wait to see them all.
If you’ve been lurking around Sugarbutch for a while, you know who Syd London is.
Syd has taken many of the most significant photos of me and my events in the last few years. She is an incredible photographer, hard-working and frequently nearly invisible at events, sneaking in to get just the right shots without interrupting the performers or the vibe of what’s going on (which is not true of all event photographers, just sayin’).
The first shoot that Syd and I did was a solo shoot of me, in slightly industrial Brooklyn, so early in the morning that I look kind of tired in some of the shots. But you probably recognize at least this one:
… because that’s the shot I used as a headshot for a few years. More from that photo shoot are on Syd’s flickr stream … I especially like this one.
Then Syd shot me and Cheryl the night that we started Sideshow.
You’ve seen many of these shots, too, because I used them as promo images for the series while it ran for a year and a half. There are many, many more shots of us from that night, together and separately, and the colors are amazing, and Cheryl looks so serious and dark and her usual self, and then sometimes one of us made her laugh and we got this rare shot of her smile. I’m so glad we have some photos of us together. Syd took hundreds of shots that night, and made us both look incredible.
She also snapped a few quick shots of me and Kristen, including this one, which is one of my favorite photographs of us together that we yet have:
And just, wow. I love that photograph.
Syd went on to photograph Sideshow for Time Out New York a couple different times throughout the series. How else would I have these amazing shots, capturing what it was like to be there for the first time? I was so nervous. Cheryl was buzzing around but kept a completely cool head, as she did. Kristen was beautiful and welcoming and warm, as she is.
And Syd captured it all.
Syd went on to photograph the Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference, for which I was on the steering committee, and snapped more shots of me, the conference in general, and Kristen and Cheryl as part of the volunteer committee that baked for the butches.
Syd also got shots of the Sideshow/Queer Memoir Butch Voices Mashup and the Speed Friending/Speed Dating opening night social. I’m on the Butch Voices national board now, have I mentioned that yet? I should make a formal announcement about that, I (we, the board) haven’t yet.
… And then Cheryl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Syd took the photos of Cheryl’s old fashioned lesbian head shaving ritual, and one of the photos made it into the New York Times “Lives They Lived” series and was featured in the NYT Magazine.
Kelli & Cheryl had their own shoot before we did the head shaving, so these are some of the last shots of Cheryl with all of her hair.
I love the love in these photographs. They were so good together, and loved each other so well.
Syd went on to photograph Nerd Love, the Valentine’s show that Kelli and Cheryl did together with some friends, as well as Fuck Your Health and Butch Burlesque and Butch It Up and dozens more community events.
And then Cheryl died. And Syd photographed the last Sideshow, just like she’d photographed the first one, except without Cheryl. And Kristen and I tried not to cry all night, and I put Sideshow on hold.
And a month or so later, Syd photographed Cheryl’s memorial.
… and I don’t even know what to say about that. It was a beautiful, important night, and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
So basically, Syd London’s photography tells many the stories of my life for the past two years, from formal headshot photoshoots to community events to private rituals to memories that I am so blessed to cherish in images. I didn’t really realize that I’d be doing an overview of my successes and lows and family, but well, that’s what I’m doing.
The point is, Syd London needs a camera.
She’s been doing all this work borrowing camera equipment, and needs her own in order to continue capturing the community events that she’s been doing for many years, not just the last few that I’ve been working with her. She’s touched many, many lives of artists and activists in this community.
Here’s the video version of this request:
And here’s what Syd has to say about this campaign:
My name is Syd London; I’m a Brooklyn based, self taught, professional photographer and photojournalist. Until photography I struggled since the age of 9 with my soul question; how can I use my life as a tool? Baring witness, documenting and story telling through my photography while working to get those stories out there have become my answer. However, the professional grade tools which enable me to do this work are extremely expensive. I haven’t had my own digital camera since August 2010, when my camera was broken beyond repair. Since then I’ve been working on borrowed and rented equipment. Skyrocketing rental costs make it extremely difficult to continue and impossible to save for the needed equipment. I don’t want to wear my welcome out from relying on the incredible generosity of friends for camera loans. I never know what I’m going to work with or how/if I’m going to get a camera for the next gig. I’m especially concerned about the continuity of my work dedicated to social justice; licenses to these photos are frequently donated to organizations doing social justice work at a grass roots level such as Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Audre Lorde Project and Queers for Economic Justice. A professional grade camera rig of my own would enable me to continue my ongoing documentary about the LGBT community in NYC “Taking Back the Streets” (started in 2007), to continue to donate to magnificent organizations and artists as well as enable me push my work to the next level, something I’m starved for.
If you’ve got any extra money and you’re capable of giving a donation to her campaign, I urge you to do so. For selfish reasons, I want to keep working with Syd, and I want her photographs to keep being amazing. And for more community reasons, I know Syd’s work makes a huge difference, and I know how important it is to have not only a record of our communities, but a way to show us off in the mainstream that is accessible, beautiful, and moving.
Thank you, Syd, for all the incredible work you’ve done. I hope it’ll continue for a long time.
Thanks Adrienne for the photo (which I found on Tumblr)
So … Smith College was kind of an epic visit. It was snowing when I got there, which I just love, aside from that I’d brought my best leather city loafters and leather jacket and did not dress for it at all. Note to self: check the weather before traveling. Bird reminded me that the last time I was there, it was so hot that I couldn’t wear the sweater/button down/tie combo that I brought, so I ended up teaching in my tee shirt.
I was there for almost three days, and made some great friends in the Peer Sex Educator group who brought me. They swiped me into the dining halls for meals, brought me to a few of their classes (Women’s Sexuality and Black Queer Theory … both amazing!), invited me to a guitar sing-along circle (seriously y’all have got to learn Closer to Fine), took me out for drinks after, and generally showed me a good time. It was really fun to be able to have some actual time to hang with the students this time, since quite often I just show up at a college, do my workshop, and leave. It was really fun to pick their brains with questions like, what’s your relationship to your gender? How’s your sex life? What keeps you up at night? How has your gender evolved? I find it fascinating to hear those stories, and sometimes I offered my own perspectives, but most of the time I just try to listen.
I’m so grateful to be home for most of March. I’ll be at Rutgers for a sex & relationship conference, and at the Rainbow Book Fair here in NYC, then at International Ms. Leather in San Francisco at the end of the month, but for the most part I am looking forward to the next few weeks actually at home and inside a routine. My dad is even going to be in town! I’m looking forward to that, he’s a bit of a jokester and lots of fun. After that … well, April and May are probably going to be nuts. The book is due April 10th (omg the book! The book!!) and I’m headed to Boston, Seattle, Portland, and probably a few other places in those months. This is the busiest spring travel schedule I’ve ever had, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to deal with it and keep up with my own self-care, but I’m going to try.
I’m going to try to keep up with my writing, too, but as you can see, it’s a challenge. I used to think I could get writing done while I travel, but I think I am kind of giving up on that dream. I am so grateful for this patchwork freelance life I am putting together, but like any other life, it has it’s challenges.
I’m still booking for April and May, I still have some free time! I’d love to come visit your city, your college, your local community center, your sex toy store, if you feel inspired to bring me. I hope I can still get to Chicago and Durham, particularly. Get in touch with me if you want to start chatting about that!
I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder for a week or so now, and I can’t figure out what to write to go along with Syd’s slideshow.
These are the photos from Cheryl’s memorial, B is for Beautiful, taken by Syd London, who is a dear friend of mine and who photographed me and Cheryl for Sideshow promotion, the first Sideshow, and the last Sideshow, as well as a few other significant shoots of Cheryl’s—like her lesbian headshaving ritual. So many, in fact, that Syd created an entire collection of Cheryl B. photo shoots on Flickr.
Emceeing the memorial was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I am so glad to have had some tantra and “holding space” training, because I totally cast a circle and grounded energy and did all of that. I wanted a container that could hold our grief, if even just for the afternoon. It was funny and fun and tragic and intense, just like Cheryl, and I think it was a really beautiful celebration of her life. Here’s what I read at the memorial.
Kelli submitted one of Syd’s shots to the New York Times “The Lives They Loved” series that is online and selectively printed in the NYT Magazine on Christmas annually, and submitted this shot of Cheryl, Kelli, Diana Cage, and me.
When my partner Cheryl B was diagnosed with hodgkin’s disease last fall and was preparing for chemo that would cause her to lose her beautiful black hair, a friend suggested a “good ol’ fashioned lesbian headshaving ceremony.” We had friends over, made food, and shaved Cheryl’s head. There are many photos of Cheryl performing, engaged in political actions, organizing events. All these are important but I also want to remember her like this: loved, loving, happy, embracing the radical love of her chosen family and the queer (in a myriad of ways) community she had gathered around her.
If that’s not some radical infiltrating, I don’t know what is. And also, who else had photos of fishnets and cleavage? Amazing. Kelli tells the story about how she made the fact checker say “good ol’ fashioned lesbian headshaving ceremony” no less than four times:
Young fact checker dude: So, it says “when Cheryl became ill with hodgkins, her friends suggested a good old fashioned lesbian headshaving ceremony?”
Me: Oh I am sorry, my dog was barking, could you repeat that last part? (no dog had barked)
YFCD: Good old fashioned lesbian head shaving?
Me: Oh shit, you know how iPhones are, you cut out, could you repeat that again?
YFCD: Good old fashioned (sigh) lesbian head shaving.
Me: Oh I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch it.
YFCD: Good. Old. Fashioned. Lesbian. Head. Shaving.
Me: Oh yeah, of course. Yes.
I can see Cheryl rolling her eyes, too, so easily, at that she had to die in order to get into the New York Times—but I think she would’ve been very pleased about this little write-up. And I think she would like Syd’s collection of the beautiful photos of her, with her big love Kelli and with friends and fans and community, and I think she would have loved the memorial.
Miss you, Cheryl. Every day.