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Exploring Gender and Identity from “Disruptive Perspectives”

A new show opening today at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago and on view until December 22 presents the work of seven artists who “carve out new ways of envisioning gender, identity, relationships, and selfhood,” write the show’s curators, Allison Grant and Nadine Wietlisbach, in a statement. Building on the work of a previous generation of photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Catherine Opie, who challenged cultural norms by picturing LGBTQ bodies, the artists in “Disruptive Perspectives” use photography to explore expanded possibilities of self-representation.

Among them is Alexandre Haefeli, whose series “The Company of Men” upends the conventions of the male gaze, presenting male models who engage with nature and “seem delicate, mischievous and sensitive—qualities typically considered feminine,” the museum writes. Jess T. Dugan’s series “To Survive on this Shore” collects portraits of trans people over the age of 50, aiming to increase the visibility of a demographic that is often overlooked, and to recognize the sacrifices they made. Barbara Davatz made the portraits in “As Time Goes By” over the course of 30 years, photographing hip, often androgynous couples in the early 1980s and returning to picture them over the years, as their styles and partners change. Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst’s series documents moments from their six year relationship, during which each transitioned gender—today, Drucker is a trans woman and Ernst is a trans man. Their series, called “Relationship,” presents everyday loving moments, and also records their changing relationship with their bodies. Laurence Rasti’s series “Il n’y a pas d’homosexuels en Iran” (There are no Homosexuals in Iran) refutes that statement, made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007. Rasti pictures Iranian couples who stand up to be counted while their identities are artfully obscured for their protection—homosexuality there is punishable by death.

As the show’s curators write, “At turns triumphant and at other moments sorrowful or distressing, the artworks included in Disruptive Perspectives present gender and sexuality as a panoply of possible variations—reflecting the ongoing complex influences of self, other, and image.”

Related Stories:
A Tender Attack on Gender Binaries
Portraits of Growing Up Trans
Working as an Outsider: Danielle Villasana on Capturing Portraits of Transgender Women (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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