Artist JJ Levine Breaks Gender By Showing Gender

by Fatimah Hameed

The other day, my six-year-old cousin was telling me about how she’s decided that her new favorite Disney princess is none other than Mulan. “Is it because she’s brave and strong?” we asked. “Um, nooo. It’s because she gets to be half-boy, half-girl.” Some of the people in the room tried to explain that she’s a woman who dressed up as a man, but my cousin shot back, “But then she could be a boy, right?” And my Judith Butler-loving heart swelled with pride.

The six-year-old figured it out: gender is fluid and performative. Which brings us to Montreal-based photographer JJ Levine, who uses his work to investigate sexuality, identity, and queer spaces. His newest project, Alone Time, continues this exploration through a study on the authenticity and reality of gender. Each frame features the same model twice as two different genders.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Levine talks about the series and features his newest photo, showing his partner as both a pregnant woman and a glowingly expectant man. “I make my models convincingly ‘pass’ as both male and female using makeup, costume, and gesture and no other means, thus defying the gender binary imperative,” Levine elaborates, and he goes on to cite the legendary Divine and the film Female Trouble as his inspirations for the shoot.

This idea of gender ambiguity and performance has been making waves in the fashion world for a while with Andrej Pejić and more recently with Elliott Sailors’ shift to male modeling.

My cousin’s perception of gender makes me hopeful that these are concepts we can teach children to approach more openly so that they’re more able to explore their own identities however they wish.

For the rest of the interview and more Alone Time portraits, check out the BuzzFeed article and Levine’s web gallery.


Thanks to BuzzFeed

All images via JJ Levine Photography.

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