Carmelle La Sirena is a conceptual artist, painter and photographer whose wandering heart has her living in both New York and Los Angeles. She began photographing "Leatherwomen" over 20 years ago as a way to explore and understand her own sexuality. What started out as a hobby turned into a fetish, and that somehow turned into an actual documentary affectionately known as We are Leather Women.
Carmelle La Sirena started out photographing gay men in Leather Bars at a young age. “I was drawn to the level of sexual charge, the tension and passion that gay men could display. It took me a long time to understand my own sexuality, because we as humans, we are so limited on conversations about what real sexuality and sex is. I understood the sexual drive the gay men had, and admired that. I wanted so badly to connect in that way and be part of that level of desire, so I would hang out at leather gay bars. Having so many gay men in my life, this gave me a safe place to explore that. I have been honored to photograph people of all genders, body sizes, and nationalities. I find beauty in everyone that I meet."
“Humans around the world have been so conditioned to look at ourselves, our bodies and our sexuality through the dominant male heterosexual perspective which is suffocating and restrictive. I didn't realize how much I wanted to change that ideal until a few years ago. Really in the beginning, I wanted to capture how amazing I felt with my own lovers, with my play partners, and friends. In 1988, when I read Patrick Califia's book, Macho Sluts, and began having more access to alternative lifestyles, I knew that there were other women that felt the same way as I did. I began to ask various people in my life if I could photograph them, often while we were playing. I was deep into living a lifestyle that allowed me the ability to explore sexual power and desires, and I wanted to capture that on film for myself.
“Although much of my photography training and background was in fashion, I didn't want to always photograph the perfect model that fits in a tiny little corset. I was attracted to masculine women on motorcycles, but I didn't see many images of them out there, so instead I started turning the camera on my own life. I had a small photography show in the '90s and a woman at the show said to me, 'I now realize I am not alone. These are my people and I feel like I can connect with others.' That statement literally changed my life. I had never thought of my photography as life changing for anyone. My focus was to capture moments where people connect in their desire to empower each other through sex, but from a female perspective, my perspective. In the long run, you can not stop yourself from doing things because you're scared or because others are not going to like you. If you don't do what your heart desires, you won't like yourself. If you don't see the art you want to, create it.”
See more of Carmelle's work and life on Facebook and Instagram.