Baseman’s photos transcend identity

Ella Baseman, Contributing Writer

Gender identity is something that affects many young adults today. Currently, I am working on a photography project that focuses on this topic and consists of a series of interviews and portraits. In my project, I am featuring different members of the LGBT+ community; these are people who have different opinions on gay rights, and individuals who have a unique story pertaining to or affecting their perspective on sexual or gender identity. Due to photojournalistic requirements, I have decided to include people who are completely opposed to gay rights and gay marriage, some of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. This way they are still able to share their insight, but their portrait is non-identifable and only shows either their hair, shoes, hands, or another discrete shot. Initially, I reached out to various high schools in the tri-state area, but the extent of my project has since expanded to college students and recent graduates. Currently, I am in contact with more than ten Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) groups in the area. Overall, my project aims to show how sexuality and gender is changing, and to display the various levels of acceptance.

When I was first presented with the opportunity to choose a topic, I decided to photograph food, kitchens, and chefs. After photographing a few kitchens, the subject began to feel uninspiring, and what I believed was going to be a fast-paced, high-intensity environment, did not seem to live up to my expectations. My mother helped guide me to the subject of identity, which I have morphed into the project I am working on today.

With every project comes challenges and for this one, transportation and scheduling are the biggest. Because I am trying to show people primarily in their bedroom, I have to travel to their houses. I do my best to stack interviews or plan a route that encompasses everyone I need to include, but at the end of it all, every interview is rewarding, being unique and special in its own way. I love hearing different stories, especially when I am able to strike a true connection with a subject. During the photoshoots, I find that people are stuck in a classic picture-taking fake smile, trying to perfect their posture and making sure their hair is perfect, causing it to be very hard for them to be true to themselves. I find success whenever I am able to get subjects to be honest or am able to catch them mid-laugh. Through this project I have developed a passion for taking portraits, something that terrified me initially.

At the beginning, my goal was to have 30 people as part of my project. I was recently referred to several additional GSAs and my scope is growing, as I am expanding into different age groups. I find myself gaining knowledge and advice as I meet more people with beautifully different backgrounds and beliefs. Although it is difficult for me to explain the reaches of the project, every story speaks for itself. I am beyond blessed that I will be able to share these stories to better the community and open people’s eyes to the wonders of identity.

If you would like to participate, please contact me at [email protected]

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