Those who say that cameras steal the soul have not been photographed by Rossetti. Every click nourishes my ego, my vanity and I return home having scrolled through glimpses of her captures feeling like I'm walking on clouds. Seen through the lens, seen through someone else's eyes my body is a canvas for the play of light and shadow. It becomes a thing of beauty, I become a piece of art.As confident a swagger and bright a mood as if I'd just had a play session.
Perhaps there are similarities. Planning and executing a photo shoot is not dissimilar from running a scene: set up needs to be done, consideration given to physicality (if anything I am more body-focused before a shoot than before a scene, when playing I am in motion, in control and in flux, when photographed I am static and the results will last for longer. The power play is more subtle than garish tales of casting couches but it is there nonetheless. I present myself for the consumption of the camera and my body tells stories with the shapes it casts in the light. There is an intimacy to it, as she moves and poses me - doll like - into just the right position for each shot. The odd command: "stay right there" or exclamation "beautiful".
One of the advantages of androgyny is a playing with a chameleon palette of gender and sexuality. We did two main sets, both of which are designed to capture my androgyny and the contrast of curves and cut in my physique. The first was a geisha style shot, full white makeup and slicked back darkened hair with skin revealed around a descending kimono. I clasped my hands to my chest, fingers hidden in long sleeves, to create a line that might have been breasts or might have been pectoral muscles. My shoulders and back are now defined enough under good light to cause a second glance, and I hoped to capture some of the expression of Onngata or perhaps a "forced feminisation".
The second was a series of nudes. I wanted "muscle" shots to capture the definition and sculpting that I've been working so hard on for something like the past two years. This was my first set of styled studio nudes for a long time, we try to work with more classical "masculine" poses so I end up flexing and tensing a lot to get the best out of my shape. This one was more focused on lines and angles than on a story as such so we set up with dark fabrics for background contrast and well trained light to pick out the edges of my muscles.
I love the act of being photographed. Spending a day getting in and out of costume and makeup and running through different poses and portraits is a luxury: photos capture moments stolen from the real world, in which I can be glamorous and untouchable, beautiful and unreal. It is also a performance, and I always enjoy slipping out of myself and adopting a role. I once had a rather rude comment on some dating website that the photos I'd uploaded couldn't possibly be of the same person. I was quite proud of that and took it as an unwitting (there was little witty about the turn of phrase used) compliment: that I have that flexibility in presentation. There is pleasure in this kind of masquerade. Yes, I dissemble to perform and yet no lie is ever completely dishonest. There are grains of truth in each post I adopt. I take a portion of myself that I want to express and the idea is held it in place with each click of the button.
Photographs are not merely private games to idle away a rainy day or a tool to massage my ego after a week of minor (and major) irritations. They are marks of progress and reminders for my future when I no longer look like this. They are also collaborations that I am proud of, something I have made of myself, for myself - like my body and my life, they represent the control I have over my identity and sense of self. And of course, they are beautiful things in and of themselves.