A Ten Year Retrospective: Portraits by Bill Wadman

I was in New York City in November and met up with Bill Wadman, an amazing portrait photographer and friend of mine. As we were catching up we realized that he’s been photographing me for ten years, so I started thinking back on the experiences with him, the way things have changed over that time, and how portrait photographs can be a powerful tool of identity reflection.

My first shots with him were in 2007 for his 365 portrait series. Many of the folks I was in community with were part of it, and I threw my name out to him, too … I didn’t know what to expect, but I went over to his home studio with some ideas. He spent a lot of time with me, through multiple outfit changes and my nerves and even a performed poem at his old-school microphone. These shots weren’t the one he used for his project, but these are the ones I like best.

These were the first professional photos of myself, I think … aside from school portraits. Definitely my first “photo shoot.” I’d been an avid self-portraiture explorer since 2000 or so, but I was coming in to my butchness in new ways in 2005-6-7, and so I was seeing myself anew. Having someone else see me like this was gratifying … and kind of shocking. I remember staring at these photos a lot. Is that really how I look? Are you sure? It seemed magical.

I did three shoots with him in 2012. That was one of the hardest years of my life, and it was one of those years where I reached out to a lot of different photographers and did many shoots. The first one, with the red flogger against the brick wall, has been used many places since. While I’ve used some of the photos from the shoot later in the year, it was also a time when I was in deep depression, and the photos, while technically beautiful and very accurate in their capture of me, are really sad. My face is … surprising.

There’s actually one more shoot from 2012 that is missing. I’d had this vision of a photo of me in a white button-down, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, next to a clawfoot tub with a femme covered in bubbles, and me shaving her legs. Bill said, “If I find a clawfoot tub, will you and Kristen model?” and made it happen. It makes me sad to look at it. I’m not including it here, but I’ve seen it make the rounds on Tumblr, and it’s over on my Flickr.

There’s one — the middle one from 2015 — that I think is my favorite photo of myself ever taken. That whole shoot, though, are some of my favorites of all time. I’m not sure what it was, but I felt confident and so like myself, I’d just had top surgery, I was getting healthier in my body, and I was appreciating being back in New York for a small trip.

The 2017 photo shoot was for his second 365 portraits project. rife is also in this year’s portrait series, from the summer when Bill and his wife Heather were in San Francisco, but I waited until I was visiting New York to do a portrait with him. We met up at the gay boy bar Therapy because I remembered their all-gender bathroom as kinda epic, so we took some photos in there at the urinals. They show a different kind of me than the others, I think. More grown up. Maybe a little more wise. More playful. More … solid. More something.

Thank you, Bill. Here’s to another 10 years of friendship!

2007

2012, early

2012, late

2015

2017

PS: I used to keep a lot of photos over on Flickr, and I still upload galleries from photoshoots there. You can browse through more of the photos from these shoots (and others) if you’d like.

The Identity Project: “Butch daddy poet” and “Genderqueer leather boy”

Okay so isn’t rife just so fucking cute? And sexy?

The Identity Project Photo by Sarah Deragon_670

Yeah. I know.

You probably know all about San Francisco-based photographer Sarah Deragon’s queer Identity Project by now—I’m mostly saying that because she’s gotten a mountain of gay-stream press and is all over my Facebook feed all the time, so if that’s the kind of thing you read, you’ve probably seen it.

It’s pretty awesome. Dozens (hundreds yet?) of photographs, beautiful black & white portraits, with just a few key identity words listed underneath.

Y’all know me—I love conversations about identities, about words, about the power in the words that we chose to define ourselves, heck even in self-portraiture and images that make us feel aligned with our deep selves, if only for a moment. I love that shit. It is, in many ways, what Sugarbutch is based around, and what tons of my art focuses on: Identity theory building, formation, and liberation.

So seeing a project that is a kind of visual conversation is pretty stunning, I think. I’ve been really moved, watching The Identity Project’s social media streams, as the images come through. I don’t know if I can articulate quite why it matters, but it makes me feel like I’m part of something.

And, speaking of that, I feel really privileged to have been photographed (alone and with rife) as part of this project.

The Identity Project Photo by Sarah Deragon_060

Sarah took some cutie shots of us together, too—these were the ones we used for the final project (which we got to pick), but there were others we liked too.

So far, the photos are almost entirely of people based in the Bay Area, and Sarah is raising some money to travel around and shoot in other cities, too. The Identity Project Indiegogo campaign ends at midnight on May 30th—tonight—so head on over and donate a few bucks (or a thousand) and support her for some national traveling so she can keep taking incredible portraits, capturing the current state of the queer community.

And who knows, maybe she’ll end up taking YOUR picture too!

Transmography: Thirteen Fairytale Portraits of Queers Beyond the Gender Binary

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.

Swiped from Najva’s blog:

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
212-529-4351

San Fran Lomography Store
309 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-248-0096

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.

a year’s worth of faces

Bill Wadman’s brilliant 365 Portraits project has, sadly, come to a close. It was inevitable, I suppose, as it was a temporary project, but still, I’m a bit sad. I looked forward to his new photos on my reader every day, and I went over many of the months again and again, finding new details and new appreciation of the depth of the photos and Bill’s craft.

He photographed me once upon a time, some wonderful shots in a suit & tie.

These are my very favorites:

Andrea Mann, jazz vocalist
Jenn Matthews, skeptic of the art mecca
Molly Crabapple, illustrator/suicide girl/dr. sketchy
Thomas Gilner, nihilistically astute sesquipedalian
Carl Wilson, grand canyon junkie
Renata Terase, little waitress
Melissa Febos, writer

And these deserve mention – as do about twenty other shots, it’s hard to narrow it down. Roughly in order of time: Daria Kossowska, restaurant manager, Rachel Kramer Bussel, erotic author / cupcake blogger, Rachel Bennett, instigator, Danny Adrian, birthday boy / terribly nice guy, Laura Wenning, contemporary dancer of emerging markets, Logan Levkoff, sexologist/author/mommy, Max Saltonstall, autumnal juggler, Jennifer Dziura, nerd goddess, Jose, dreamer of the eponymous one man show dream, Shawn Carney, artist/geek, Paul Meriac, intuitively navigating through life, Sean Risley, body story writer, Eric Chaikin, natural history and documentary filmmaker, Sarah Herrington, writer, poet, midnight yogi, Imogen Heap, singer-songwriter.