Exploring Gender Through Photos: The new headshots by Meg Allen

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?

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

10 thoughts on “Exploring Gender Through Photos: The new headshots by Meg Allen”

  1. Arielle says:

    I like the red shirt/black door ones best. A little threatening, a little ominous, but also plenty of love and joy there, and you look comfortable.

  2. Taylor says:

    Hey—maybe it’s because I’m on my phone, but I can’t see the pics, just FYI :)

    1. Sinclair says:

      hmmm sorry about that Taylor. It’s probably because you’re on a phone, yeah, the flickr embed link just kinda sits there and probably needs a browser to interpret it. I added a regular link so if the slideshow doesn’t come up, at least that will, and you can click right over to the Flickr set. Thanks for letting me know!

  3. WWG says:

    I like the first one in the middle of the street best.

  4. these pictures are stellar. can i just say that when i met you i was thoroughly surprised to find you so hot? not meant badly, but your photos simply didn’t do you justice (and that’s me outing myself as an internet creeper, since you didn’t used to have photos on here…). anyhow, all creepiness and/or possible insults aside, i feel like these fit you well. i particularly like the second photo (though i agree the sweater/polo combination is worth pointing out).

  5. Gail says:

    I like the brown jacket, in the street with cars shots. You look happy and they should crop down quite well if you need then to

  6. Molly says:

    I really favor the photos in the middle of the street with cars, especially with the blazer. Great shots!

  7. Wow! You look AMAZING!!! Handsome, as always!! Best part is…it looks like you had a really fun time doing the shoot!!

  8. Shereen says:

    I love the series in front of the colourful graffiti best. You look the most comfortable to me in that series; handsome, strong presence, but also warm and approachable. I guess it really depends what vibe you’re hoping to create in the various places you’ll use these, but as you say, many of these seem less… posed, persona-based, and more just who you are. Whether that’s what you’re going for, only you can say. But they’re all gorgeous, striking photos.

  9. Mistress Raffi says:

    I like the ones walking in the middle of the street. They’re all fantastic tho–kudos to both the photographer and the subject.

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