On the subway one evening, New York photographer Lissa Rivera's friend shared that he had worn women’s clothing almost exclusively in college, but after graduation struggled to navigate a world that seemed both newly accepting and yet inherently reviling of male displays of femininity.
Lissa thought that photography could provide a space for him to experiment with his identity outside of isolation. She explains: "Taking the first pictures was an emotional experience. I connected with my friend’s vulnerability. I wanted to make sure that the images were not a compromise for either of us, and we engaged in many discussions. Both of us have long, fraught relationships with femininity that have fundamentally shaped who we are.
"Our desires were matched. They had the desire to see themselves and I felt driven to capture their exploration. A part of my own identity that had defied expression also began to emerge. As time went on, we realised that we had unexpectedly fallen in love. He became my romantic partner and collaborator."
Lissa wanted to make images without shame, to show her friend's femininity as strength: "I wanted to feel empowered as well, to have an intimate muse. When taking the photos I felt the same as when viewing a film where a director and actress share a deep connection to the fantasy captured. Although our emotional relationship is private and real, we perform a romanticism that is obsessive and decadent. We connect to images, films and records of women that we idolise and consume together."
Lissa received her BFA from Lesley University and MFA at the School of Visual Arts. She grew up near Rochester, NY, home of Eastman Kodak, where the Eastman House collection has continuously inspired her work. Her photography has been featured in several publications, including "25 Under 25 Up-and-Coming American Photographers" (PowerHouse Books), curated by Silvia Plachy. Discover more at lissarivera.com.
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