Curated by Girls, a Berlin-based art platform promoting equality and diversity, invited Canadian photographer Laurence Philomène to exhibit her work in Berlin. Laurence Philomène is a color and people lover. In her work she explores femininity and gender identity through powerful portraits. The 23-year-old artist will be presenting her non-binary portraits in Berlin this spring. Her portraits aim at challenging the way we see gender and the under-representation of individuals that identify as non-binary.
What does non-binary mean to you? Can you tell us a little about your personal experiences?
Non-binary in general is an umbrella term, it encompasses a lot of different trans experiences, but at its core it means someone who doesn’t fit within the traditional definition of the man/woman binary. A lot of people assume non-binary means genderfluid but that’s not necessarily the case, for example I have a lot of friends who are non-binary trans women for example. My personal experience is a bit different, I guess personally I always felt fascinated by womanhood but I never really felt like it was mine to claim, I just felt distanced from it, and I think from a really young age people around me could pick up on that and told me the ways in which I didn’t fit, most days I feel agender, I like the term non-binary because it allows me to just exist without having to define myself so much.
You use a lot of colors, can you tell me what your relationship to colours is? What do they mean to you?
Colors just make me happy! I used to work with color more thematically but now I kind of just go with my instinct, whatever pleases my eyes! Orange in general is a color I use to relate to my identity, but otherwise most colors I use just depend on how I feel on that day.
Do you have a favorite color? If so which one and why?
Pink! It’s always been my favorite. I just find it so pleasant, I think any color looks nice next to pink!
Also, what is it all about that recurring redhead wig, what does it represent?
The orange wig is from a project I’ve been working on for the last 2 years titled “me vs others” when I photograph other people as me/use other people to take self-portraits. I have orange hair so the wig is meant to trick the viewer into thinking I’m the one in the photos – but as I said earlier, I think through this project the color orange in general for me has become something I identify with myself.
There is a certain Kawaii feeling to your pictures – what inspires you in general?
I don’t know that I’d use that word to describe my work personally – I am not Japanese and it’s not my place to identify my work with that word, plus there’s a specific history behind the meaning of kawaii in Japan that doesn’t relate to what I do. I do like “girly” aesthetics, I think especially in my older work I was very obsessed with reclaiming femininity, less so now. But I do believe cuteness is under-valued in the art world and I’d love to see that change! In general what inspires me is my friends, people who are relentlessly themselves.
How do you choose your models? How do you work with them?
My models are always friends of mine, friends of friends, fellow artists I admire. I find that the more I know someone the more I see the beauty in them and am inspired by them. I used to really push my vision onto whoever I was photographing but nowadays I like it to be more collaborative, I like to let whoever I’m photographing inspire the final result.
Is there a special ritual during your photo sessions?
Not really, when it’s my personal work it’s usually at my house, I’m usually in my pyjamas cause I like to be cozy – I wouldn’t call it a ritual per se, I mostly just like to be able to move around!
Who’s next on your ‘model wish list’ right now and why?
That’s a really tough question – I’d love to photograph Grimes or Gerard Way.
Do you have a dream-collaboration in mind?
Yeah, I want my friends Hobbes Ginsberg, Bao Ngo and I to photograph the members of My Chemical Romance all together.
You come from Montreal, city of director Xavier Dolan who explores gender identity in his movies, do you feel that this city is open to gender identity discussions?
Yes and no – underground, Montreal is a very queer city; but I find there’s a really big divide between French & English communities here, and a language barrier in French that makes it hard to talk about certain topics such as non-binary identities, since the language isn’t there to talk about it.
How do you see the future for gender identity in the next 10 years?
Gender non conforming people have always been there – that hasn’t changed and isn’t going to change. The only difference is that we’re starting to work through the shame and shunning that has kept us a lot of us in secrecy for a long time, we’re finding the words to express how we feel. I don’t think anything is going to “change” necessarily in regards to how people exist or identify, I just hope legislation is put in place to protect trans lives. Easier access to legal name changes, hormone therapy, employment and housing protection for trans individuals, etc. That is what I hope to see in the future.
Last but not least, what would the playlist to your exhibition sound like?
“Rumours” by Lindsay Lohan on loop!
CoGalleries – Torstraße 170, 10115 Berlin, May 19th – May 31st, 2017