How Losing My "Masculinity" Liberated My Art | VISUELLE

Boys play soccer. Girls play with Barbies. That's how I was raised. That's how life around me was. Boys wear blue. Girls wear pink. It was how it was. And if it wasn't like that, something was wrong. 

As a kid, I was encouraged to play soccer. That lasted 2 minutes. Ten minutes into the game and I would run off and paint or cut my little cousin's Barbie's hair. I was a dope hairdresser. I never liked to do what the other boys did, but I had to or I was an outcast. And as you know, not being part of the club as a ten year-old SUCKED. 

For many years, I was self-conscious that I wasn't "masculine" enough. That's the kind of pressure I faced. I was afraid of the society I grew up in. The way I spoke and acted-- I made sure I was "being a guy." I was scared of being outed by my own home, my own people.

But weirdly enough, I made sure my work was "masculine," and not showing any signs of my femininity or flamboyantnes (NOT a word). I stuck to landscapes, beautiful photos of Haitian beaches, and portraits. I played it safe for a long time until the end of my Sophomore year of college.

 Portrait of a businessman for  Humans of Haiti

Portrait of a businessman for Humans of Haiti

I was frustrated with my work. Everything looked the same, everything felt the same. My photographs no longer made me feel. So I decided, one day, to let my guard down-- take that "visual risk" if you will. I created SEX, the first step of my liberation. In SEX (see photos below), I celebrated intimacy and the fantastical side of intimacy. Wow, I felt HELLA good after releasing that series. I felt stronger, powerful. 

I started creating more stuff like SEX. I started shooting with colors and the stuff that made me feel good as a child (glitter, arts and craft stuff, paint). It was a sudden liberation. And I couldn't figure out what I was liberated from until 2 months ago.

 Portraits from   Portrait 68  , using arts and crafts material like glitter and feathers.

Portraits from Portrait 68, using arts and crafts material like glitter and feathers.

What was missing in the pictures that made me feel good? Masculinity. Gender norms. All of that was missing. The photos were Steven. They were my ultimate expression. The absence of these social barriers created the artist that I was always afraid of being. It took away the worry of "what will my parents say? What will X, Y, Z think of these photos?" None of that mattered to me because my work was finally an authentic representation of my creative entity. An entity that was stronger than any external worry or emotion. I sound crazy and I don't even know if I make sense,

But when I lost my masculinity, I liberated my mind. 

A couple of days ago I released a series called THE FORBIDDEN PORTRAITS OF A HAITIAN where I posed with makeup, looking sensual. A very simple shoot. I wanted it to be a commentary on how Haitian society is so fixed on gender (I mean a lot of other societies have that issue as well, but I'm sticking to mine for now). I wanted to show my Haitian audience that gender isn't the determining factor on how you dress, talk, act. You are you (SO original, Steven!). Your gender doesn't mean anything, an idea I wanted to show my friends, family, and audience in Haiti. However, this notion is so foreign in Haitian society. Gender is still very much the driving force behind social behavior and social structure. I wanted to challenge that with the series below.

 Image from THE FORBIDDEN PORTRAITS OF A HAITIAN

Image from THE FORBIDDEN PORTRAITS OF A HAITIAN

 Another image from the series

Another image from the series

I hope I made sense. And I hope to continue to create visuals that forever embrace my liberation. Cheers!

Artists, how do you find liberation?