This the second set of images in the four-part series of photographs from the documentary We Are Leather Women by Carmelle La Sirena.
"People often ask me how have I been able to photograph such a wide variety of leatherwomen. Many comment that in the past, they had only seen butch white women but that my photographs and film shorts have much more diversity, from portraits of older women to femmes and women of color. Truthfully, I never thought about it; I wanted to photograph the leatherwomen in my life that had either inspired me, or had made strides within the leather community. This resulted in a wide variety of individuals who have stepped up to participate. As this 'documentary' has grown, and I traveled, photographing more and more people. I never based any of it on a specific 'type' of leatherwoman or having a particular style that they had to conform to. I really want to give each individual the power to express themselves and who they are as leather.
"It really started very organically, my first interest has always been to capture the dynamics and sexual power exchange between women. I never planned on actually making a photographic documentary; it sort of evolved over time. I would either volunteer my time to photograph someone running for a contest who did not have much money, or I would simply ask those who I had photographed to tell me who inspired them. Basically, it's all an inner web of connectedness.
"In the past, cameras were not allowed, or only a chosen few were able to take photographs, and most of these images were done at leather events and contests, which is only a small part of the leather community. This has resulted in the documentation of leather history as images of the contestants and titleholders. Over the years I have seen great portraits or photographs of gay leathermen, but it was rare to see really great images of leatherwomen. Women have always been hesitant about sharing their images online, as they suffer a harsher judgement and can still to this day, loose their jobs, or children because of a photograph.
"So it is rare that there are great photos of the leather scene. There are a number of people that have captured on film the strength of living a leather lifestyle. After my good friend Edith Speed passed away, I slowly and steadily became dedicated to my photography. Her sudden death left me with an urgency to photograph as many leatherfolk as possible. I still emphasize to people that my project is not complete, it's ongoing because I still have so many more leatherwomen to include."
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.
See more of Carmelle's work and life on VoyeuristicOpera.com, Facebook, and Instagram.