Lissa Rivera is one of four photographers from our ISO & Rainbows open call that was selected for an honoree article. Below you can read more about her series, Beautiful Boy, and learn more about the photographer!
Lissa Rivera is a photographer and curator based in Brooklyn, NY whose work has received multiple grants and honors and been exhibited internationally. Rivera received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, where she became fascinated with the social history of photography and the evolution of identity, sexuality and gender in relationship to material culture. ‘Beautiful Boy,’ Rivera’s latest project, takes her interest in photography’s connection with identity to a personal level, focusing on her domestic partner as muse. Selected press includes The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Slate, and The Guardian among many others. Honors for ‘Beautiful Boy’ include the Peter Urban Legacy Award (Griffin Museum); Emerging Photography Award (Feature Shoot); Exposure 2016 (Photographic Resource Center); People’s Choice Award (Filter Photo Festival); Artist in Residence (Ace Hotel); Top 50 winner (Critical Mass); and the D&AD Next Photographer Award, shortlist. Rivera is represented by ClampArt, New York.
‘Beautiful Boy’ is an ongoing series of photographs of my lover. It began as a confession between friends. On the subway one evening, my 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 revealing of male displays of femininity. I thought that photography could provide a space for him to experiment with his identity outside of isolation.
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. He became my romantic partner and collaborator.
I wanted to make images without shame, to show his 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 idolize and consume together. The fantasy of dressing up transforms the act of being photographed into one that fuses identity creation with image creation. The camera transposes our private experiences into public expression.
This work is currently being shown at ClampArt in New York City from June 1, 2017 - July 15, 2017.