Photographer SD Holman uses her talent as a portrait photographer to capture women who fall outside of the traditional gender binary. In her series “BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls,” masculine women are not oddity or other. These are photos of women who identify as butch captured by a butch woman—they are women defining themselves. In this way, Butch has much in common with the current social campaigns stripping women of makeup, enhancements, and retouching and declaring them more beautiful without the artifice. This is part of Holman’s intent with the show—to use the Butch identity as an example of one of the classifications through which women are objectified. The difference though is the hate and fear that Butch women have faced as transgressors of societal constructs of femininity. Holman says:
“Butches and all gender variant folk walk in a world that is really hostile to them, so we tend to look inward. I was inspired to show their beauty by my wife Catherine, a femme who loved butches, and encouraged me to do this when I started talking about it.”
The rich diversity of butch women is evidenced here. Just as there isn’t one way to be a woman, Butch includes women of all shapes and colors and styles. The fluidity of gender is apparent in each photo.
Holman is an artist. Her portraits are classically beautiful, with their artful lighting and dramatic contrasts. The subjects mostly gaze through the lens to the viewer, unapologetic and authentic. There is no contrivance in these images, no sense of willful provocation nor is there any sense of apology. Author Amy Bloom writes, “Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.” These photos are intimate and groundbreaking, brave and matter-of-fact, beautiful and handsome.
Filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz began compiling vintage photographs of queer couples when he happened upon a photo album that he realized contained the life a lesbian couple. Intrigued by the visibility with which they claimed with these photographs, despite living in the early to mid 20th century, when homosexuality was less accepted and more hidden that it is now, Lifshitz filmed a documentary – Les Invisibles (2012) – chronicling the lives of LGBT couples born between the two World Wars. Lifshitz just released a companion photo book –The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride – last month. These images capture a lifestyle that was largely invisible to the mainstream culture to which it belonged. Photography was a way for queer communities to be visible to each other and to document the lives they led, however invisible they were to the heteronormative culture of their time.
Of his collection, Lifshitz says, “I don’t know these people — they are anonymous to me. I can’t really even say that each person photographed into the book is gay, except when it’s obvious. What I like is that there are different levels of reading these photos — I would say three levels to be exact. The first one is the pictures of obviously gay single people or couples, the second is the pictures of people which can be seen as ‘undefined’ (we’re not sure) and the third level is the ones that are obviously not gay but playing with a gay attitude (cross-dresser, some ‘garçonnes,’ etc.). I love the ambiguity and diversity of these pictures. These photographs ask questions. I didn’t caption the photos because I don’t know quite anything about each of them (no name, no location mentioned most of the time). I wanted to expose them like the way I found them: without any information, like mysterious pictures.” (via brain pickings)