Professional Portraits: 25 Remarkable People (Continued)
When I ordered coffee at my favorite caffeine dispensing establishment awhile ago, I was intrigued by the name tag on the barista’s apron: Callie. Standing before me was a young man. “That’s an unusual name for a guy,” I commented. Shyly and quietly he said, “Well, I’m in transition.” That’s when I realized the person in front of me wasn’t really a man.
NOTE: Out of respect for Callie’s feelings and preferences, further references will be to “she” or “her.”
During the course of several visits I struck up a friendly banter with Callie. In short exchanges, I started to get to know her. I soon realized she would be an excellent candidate for the portrait photography project I initiated earlier this year, “25 Remarkable People.”
Most of my work is in the corporate photography world. I shoot business portraits, headshots, and environmental portraits. My clients require high quality and consistency. The images have to be shot the same way so they will fit within the format needed for their marketing. As a result, creative latitude is fairly narrow.
This project gives me the opportunity to hone my visual narrative skills. The goal is to find interesting people to photograph in new and compelling ways.
Callie started questioning her gender identity at a young age. She was drawn to playing with girls. At the same time, she didn’t really relate to boys.
As she grew older, concerns about her self-image grew. "Things got worse during puberty. I began to feel even more at odds with my body and while I know puberty is tough for everyone, it felt bad in a specific way--the physical masculinization, voice dropping, bone changes, facial hair, the masculinization felt wrong."
Callie is open about the challenges she faces transitioning to become a woman. Even though she has a slender build and fine features, she struggles with physical characteristics she feels are patently male. Besides having a male voice, she is frustrated with her straight eyebrows and relatively square jaw. Her adam’s apple is a feature associated with men. She bemoans her narrow hips.
On the other hand, she has rich full lips, mysteriously seductive eyes, long slender fingers, and luminous pale skin. Her hair was long even before hair salons were shut down due to the coronavirus.
Because Callie frames a lot of her language around being afraid or unsure of herself, my goal for our time together was to make her feel safe and comfortable. Although I frequently talk to a portrait subject for a few minutes before I pick up the camera, I purposely placed her in front of the camera and started shooting almost immediately. With a steady hand on the camera and a finger on the shutter, I posed a couple of questions and let her start talking. She barely had a chance to feel uncomfortable. Those early shots set the stage for the rest of the session: calm, engaged, and authentic.
Additional images from this shoot:
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