|Jennifer Loeber, Cobble Hill #10, from the series "Zeig Mal"|
In 2008, I photographed a series called "Cruel Story of Youth" at the unconventional summer camp I attended as a teenager. As that series started to be exhibited, I began to reconnect with the old friends I made during my time there, including the subject of this photograph, Lorelei.
I learned of Lorelei's gender switch through an alumni site for the camp on Facebook. We had last seen each other as teenagers, when she was living as a boy. When I heard she was coming to NYC for a few days, I reached out to her in the hopes she'd sit for a nude portrait for my ongoing "Zieg Mal" series. It seemed like an impulsive and possibly offensive thing to ask someone I had not physically seen in 15 or more years, but something about our shared history at such an unusual place convinced me I had a better-than-average shot at getting a "yes." She happily agreed to pose and wound up staying at my apartment overnight before the next morning's shoot.
We caught up like any friends who haven't seen each other in years, but it's hard to ignore a gender switch without wanting to ask probing questions. Lorelei is one of the most open and honest people I've ever met and satiated my curiosities with grace and clarity. By the time I photographed her the next day, it was like we never lost contact.
"Zeig Mal" focuses on photographing people in the nude in their own spaces, but since Lorelei was an out-of-town visitor, I wanted to shoot on her temporary home: an air mattress in my living room. We listened to a Miles Davis record and I moved around her as she sat. I prefer to shoot with natural light, and the room has a lovely southern exposure, so the whole setup was casual. I don't really direct my subjects so much as yell out affirmations when they make gestures or movements I particularly like. She moved and I shouted. An hour later, she was on her way.
Since this portrait was conceived in the winter of 2012, I've begun shooting a new series focused solely on Lorelei. Photographed partly as documentary but also constructed collaboration, I'm exploring the inherent obstacles she encounters as a 6'4" former male navigating the ideals of femininity and the preconceptions of those around her.
- Jennifer Loeber