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Photography Today: Gender and Sexuality

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday December 7, 2017

Gender fluidity, the subject of a new book by Mariette Pathy Allen, is being celebrated at a pop-up exhibition and book launch at ClampArt next Thursday, December 14th. The event coincides with Aperture magazine's release of "Future Gender," a landmark issue dedicated to the representation of transgender lives, communities, and histories in photography guest-edited by Zackary Drucker, an artist, activist, and producer of the acclaimed television series Transparent.

As the debate for transgender rights and queer visibility reaching a new level of urgency in the United States and around the world, Aperture magazine is releasing “Future Gender,” a landmark issue dedicated to the representation of transgender lives, communities, and histories in photography. This special exhibition presents a selection of images from Allen's book Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them (E.P. Dutton 1989), a selection of which are featured in Future Gender.

Guest editor Zackary Drucker  writes, “Photography has always offered a site for gender pioneers to see themselves outside the constraints of their physical realities. It is my sincerest hope that readers are inspired by brilliant creative strategies of gender expression and the lived experience of trans people—we are everywhere, we are timeless, and we will exist for as long as humans do.” Contributors to the issue include Catherine Ope and Maggie Nelson; Jennifer Blessing; Diana Tourjee; Philip Gefter; Kike Aral; Jess T. Dugan; Mariette Allen Pathy, and more. Left: ©Marietta Pathy Allen, Vanessa in Fur Jacket, from Transformations.

For her fourth book, Transcendents: Spirit Mediums in Thailand and Burma (Daylight),Allen made four trips to Mandalay, Burma, and Lampang, Thailand, "to explore the world of spirit mediums, to taste the magic, wildness, and beauty alive in their rituals and traditions," she says. “Most people in Burma and Thailand are Buddhists, but the mediums and their followers continue to practice Animism, an ancient belief system that pre-dates Buddhism.” In the past, most spirit mediums were cisgender women, but today, she found, more and more homosexual men, as well as natal men who identify as women, receive the calling to become spirit mediums. At festivals and house parties, they adorn themselves in what we tend to consider traditionally feminine clothes and jewelry. They wear make-up and floral headdresses, and beautifully textured fabrics.

In her preface to the book Zackary Drucker writes: "Transcendents: Spirit Mediums in Burma and Thailand produces a cavalcade of luscious and saturated compositions steeped in magical spirit. To see trans folks living among their fellow country-people, fully integrated into the fabric of their communities and living openly, is a tremendous global model for all of us moving into the future."

© Mariette Cathy Allen, from Transcendents, launching next week at ClampArt 


Above: spread from Future Gender, photo © Nick Sethi

Pop-up exhibition and book launch for Transcendents: Spirit Mediums in Burma and Thailand, and Future Gender, Aperture #229, Winter 2017, Thursday, December 14th, 6-8 pm. ClampArt, 247 West 29th Street, NY, NY Info

Opening this Friday, December 7, from 6-8:30 pm at Aperture Gallery, the 2017 Aperture Portfolio Prize winner Natalie Krick’s series Natural Deceptions will be presented through a gallery tour with  Natalie Krick, Aperture’s creative director Lesley A. Martin, and author and journalist Rebecca Bengal. RSVP todaAbove: © Natalie Krick, from Natural Deceptions, this week at Aperture

Krick’s multilayered, visually complex photographs challenge the viewer to consider the layers of self, of destiny as defined by heredity and family resemblances, and of projections of what we want to see. “My mother, my sister, and I perform for each other, for the camera, and ultimately for you,” says Krick. “We impersonate each other and ourselves, emulating imagery that taught us to be beautiful.” Each photograph becomes a puzzle, an optical illusion that plays with the nature of photography as it relates to aging, the hypersexualizing of women in popular culture, and perceptions of identity

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore, 547 West 27th Street, NY, NY Info

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