Let’s talk about representation
It’s no huge secret that I have been working on putting together a small e-commerce store as a platform and income stream to support my photography. To that end, I’ve thought about “branding” and how I could align it with my own beliefs and values, whatever that means. I have already embraced the idea of “imperfection” as a photographer. In my view, flaws and mistakes can exist side-by-side with precision and accuracy because perfection is an impossible standard to achieve. It is when precision and flaws are combined in unique ways that true beauty can be found. Which leads me back to branding and values.
Let’s cut right to the chase:
- More often than not, the photography used in the fashion world promotes a negative body image and distorted sense of beauty held to genetically unrealistic standards.
- Fashion segments people into a gendered binary, or a sliding scale of sizes, and then prices accordingly.
- Sourcing material has its own problems where exploitative conditions in the name of profits frequently trumps fair wages or local jobs, etc.
Obviously, this is all a gross over simplification but it covers what I want to address. I intend to align my branding with what I believe in:
- Human beings are beautiful. I intend to work with models of different physical, genetic, or gender expressions to help promote my store. It’s simple. Wear my stuff and I’ll happily photograph you wearing it.
- As often as possible, I will collaborate with local models, performers, graphic designers, illustrators, and other creatives and pay them for their work. None of this “do it for the exposure!” crap.
- If it is available for plus-sizes, I will price it the same as non-plus sizes. I may price a little higher than average, but that will only be because I am willing to lose $2 in profit on one end in order to avoid punishing someone of a different size.
- I will price items the same regardless of someone’s different physical sex characteristics. For example, a cut and sew all over print crew neck shirt will be priced the same for men and women.
- I may charge a little differently from time to time, but it will not to the detriment of female bodied people, and only when it makes sense. For example, in the case of non-yoga leggings for men vs non-yoga leggings for women, I may charge a little more for men. After all, as a cis-bodied man myself, we need more material and my penis’ comfort is worth it, damnit!
- The sourcing for clothing blanks, and fabrics will be as ethical as possible. Originally, I had looked into American Apparel as a t-shirt blank; however, after a recent purchase of American Apparel by Gildan, and digging more into Gildan’s ethical practices, I do not feel comfortable supporting American Apparel, at this time.
- For now, my blanks are sourced from suppliers including Bella+Canvas, Next Level Apparel, and LA Apparel, manufacturers who make every effort to commit to fair wages, free trade, and produce sweatshop and child-labor free apparel. Direct to Garment Printing and the fulfillment of Cut and Sew items is based in the United States of America whenever possible.
It is in this spirit that I present to you my friend, Nick, and our photoshoot at Purgatory Chasm, in Central Massachusetts.
Welcome to Purgatory
Nick is a very proud gay man and has given me his full consent to identify him as a gay man. We started our shoot very plainly. Simple headshots while wandering the woods of Purgatory Chasm, looking for good lighting and places for quickie shots.
All About That Bear Honey
The closer to the edge of the chasm we went the more the jokes, innuendo, laughs, and gayety came out. Between Nick and Artemis, my intrepid photo-assistant, we had multiple moments such as the following exchange:
Her – “You got a new Grindr photo now!”
Me – “Yeah, you’ve totally got some bear honey right there…”
Hey, it’s important to have fun on a photoshoot, right?
“I never thought I’d say this to another man, but put that dress on…”
At the end of the shoot, we decided to go all out and do some real gender-fuckery. A cis-bodied gay man in a dress for no other reason than to wear one, super tight yoga leggings, classic gothy black lipstick, femme style fashion model emoting, and lumbersexual posing with a pole. What you don’t see are the photos with the massive stiletto heels Nick wore while perched near the edge of the chasm.
Don’t worry, Nick wasn’t really anywhere close to the edge; my liability insurance only covers so much…
Model: Nick Swan
Photography: Adrian Feliciano
Make up, wardrobe, photography assistant: Artemis