Artist Spotlight: Sara Swaty

By Christopher Harrity

Originally published on Advocate.com September 07 2013 3:00 AM ET


Above: Ben

Photographer Sara Swaty writes, "The idea of gender and the roles, responsibilities, and expectations associated with it has fascinated me for years. Mainstream culture and society impact how we as a people view gender. Where we live and how we are raised dictates our own perceptions of gender, and what is ‘normal’ or ’weird,’ ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ In the spring of 2010, I began a project focused on gender expression, which led me to photograph individuals within both straight and LGBT communities in an effort to capture images that question traditional gender roles and explore identities beyond the male-female binary.

"In all of my photographic endeavors, I strive to create work that offers viewers new perspectives on social expectations and restraints within their cultural contexts. ‘In Between & Outside’ is a series of portraits that explores gender identity and the body across a broad spectrum of individuals. The works were created with an interest in how cultural preconceptions about gender have created unattainable ideals about masculinity and femininity. Subjects range from those born into a gender they do not identify with to transgender individuals who have physically transitioned and changed their bodies. The images aim to share the personal stories of a gender variant community while challenging stereotypes that LGBT communities face.

"I am always looking for subjects to participate. Contact me at [email protected] if you are interested."


Sara Swaty is an energetic and passionate Los-Angeles based photographer who hails from St. Louis, where she learned to love hiking in intense humidity and cooking Indian food, and developed the compulsive necessity to carry a camera with her at all times.

"In Between & Outside"
Opening September 20
Art of Studio
1346 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

For more info on the event, go here.

SaraSwatyphoto.com
Facebook.com/saraswatyphoto
SaraSwatyphoto.tumblr.com/
In Between & Outside Project Blog

Kelly

“I see gender as very individual. We each have our own special mix of yin and yang, especially within our spirit. For some, gender is fluid; for others, it is pretty static. It is a gift to be born trans, to experience both in one lifetime, and to express both to the world.

“I began taking testosterone on April 21, 2011. I took this step after thinking about it for two years, and the decision was, in the end, a very simple one. Did I want to keep thinking about what I could become — a happier, fuller, more complete and whole version of myself? Or did I want to actually become that person? I had to honor my true self, and now I have two birthdays.”


Bernard

“I view my androgyny as a manifestation of the media. I am every gender and no gender simultaneously. Some days I wake up and want to be old, and sometimes I want to be Hispanic. I find that I am more than gay by today's standards especially. I am more than a cross-dresser and more like an imitation of multiple cultures. I think my gender would best be described as decidedly confused.”


Harrison

"I view gender similar to how I view colors in a full spectrum.  No two boxes can hold gender, it's all up for personal interpretation.

"I would identify myself in the wide category of gender as a blue monkey, moose, mostly blue and shades of gray, ever changing, magical unicorn, narwhal, queer as a four-leaf clover, mostly Harrison. 

I began taking testosterone in June of 2011 to feel more like myself. Living as a woman pre-testosterone in others' eyes was annoying, embarrassing, and frustrating. There's only so many times you can switch pronouns and apologize before making things awkward for yourself, not for me. Trying to explain myself and that no one needed to apologize for my experience was just horrifying for the other person — all of these factors just made me dislike myself and how I physically appeared more than anything.  Explaining how my body and voice didn't match up with my head is and was just too much for people to understand — I just ended up getting a confused and disgusted look. The way the male community treated me was that of any other woman, which is annoying whether trans or not. I don't feel like people should be treated any special way because of their sex, and that hasn't changed for me. If anything, I advocate for gender equality more now than before. Before I would try and explain the image of myself; now I really don't have to.

"My sex is still female, and I don't plan on changing that. However, in terms of gender, it is easier for people to identify me as male, which is more acceptable to me. In a perfect world (or Sweden), I wouldn't have people identify me as either pronoun; just Harrison would work fine. 

Life led me to begin my transformation, but it's been a long and slow 22-year process.

"Coming out as transgendered to my friends wasn't shocking to them at all, as they all had watched me grow more into myself. People tend to do that in life; mine is just as different and as individual as anyone else."


Harrison


David

"Drag is an art form: not only transforming your additude and personality, but your body as well. Drag queens are a staple within the GLBT and the drama communities. Role models or self-expression, each with their own unique personality and style which they wear proudly."

David


Monty


Tristan

“My name is Tristan. I am a gay man. I am also transsexual; I started my transition in 2010 and began my testosterone hormone therapy in the beginning of 2011.”


Loryn Elliot

"[I] always felt confused and isolated when put in women and girl-only spaces. I was very disassociated from my body during puberty, and up until recently always felt a 'disconnect' between my head and my physical self. At 16, I changed my birth name (Lauren Elisabeth) to Loryn Elliot. I see both gender and sexuality as fluid and do not believe either exists on a narrow 'one or the opposite' binary. I do not identify as transsexual because I do not believe there are only two genders, nor do I believe I was born the wrong one. Our society takes gender too damn seriously, and I often try to laugh at it, mold it, perform with it, and make light of it."

Kinsey

"I am a gender-queer trans woman and have been on estrogen since 2009. I shift between styles, looks, and expressions based on mood because for me, regardless of my identity, gender expression is art and my body is the canvas. Whether drag-kinging, dressing up pretty, lounging around in grunge, or going quirky, I am always me."


Kenna/Tristan

"I don't think I was really convincing anyone that I was a man, but I hoped that somewhere between the duct tape and the shoulder pads that someone would listen to the words I was trying to say."


Mike

"I think gender is a continuum. We are both male and female at the same time — we have male and female characteristics, desires, and sometimes male and female body parts. We dress like both, make love like both, and want both as partners and as role models. Some are closer to one side or the other on the continuum, but everyone is both genders — whether they say it or believe it or want it or accept it or not.

"I am bisexual, a male in form. I love men and women. I shave everything because it frees me from a layer of masculine identity so that I can be closer to my mixed-gender self. I am proud and happy to be a man and would not change my body parts or core features that identify me. I like to feel part of my feminine side, and shaving everything makes me feel a little bit that way. It's about how I feel about myself, and shaving is an outward sign of an internal feeling."


Jesse

"I am gender-fluid: I portray whatever aspects of gender I feel are fitting at the time. I am whoever I want to be, and it's pretty damn awesome."