BUTCH is a photoseries based around butch identity. In the wake of the tech boom, queers and artists have been pushed out of the Bay area, especially San Francisco itself. BUTCH celebrates those unique identities left standing and holds space for them. The Mission used to be a melting pot of Latin culture along with dykes and leather daddies who have since been replaced by polar fleece-vested techies wielding cold-pressed juice. KQED recently interviewed photographer Meg Allen about her beautiful photo series.
“I realized how awesome it would be to fill a wall with butch portraits; a wall led to two walls, to a room and now a book,” says Allen, who grew up in San Francisco. “I felt so proud to see queers and women who looked like me en masse; I decided that should be my first body of work.”
Allen is contributing images of masculine women and queers to media, which historically hasn’t represented them adequately.
“I think even less images exist where butches show their naked bodies. Beauty in women has never favored masculinity, so to be masculine as a woman was to be less valued in society. I think it still is. Look at all the female athletes,” she says. “TV and media hardly glamorize their strength; it’s all they can do to get them into pink, get their hair fixed and makeup placed before they honor them as athletes. It’s like this unsaid thing that women can be athletes as long as they still look like beautiful women, and not masculine lesbians.”
She continues, “For those of us who have never had our identity and aesthetic celebrated publicly, there is always a small sense of rejection from society,” says Allen. “What this work does is give the people in the portraits a moment to be seen as regal and beautiful as they are, as I see them, and gives anyone who lives outside of queer culture the chance to stare and really take in the gender ambiguity in the privacy of their own brain. I think most of the straight world doesn’t realize how fearful they are, for reasons unclear to them, of gender disconformity.”
Oakland-based photographer Meg Allen’s BUTCH series can be seen at Glama-Rama Salon in San Francisco through July 3. An opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, May 21 at 7:30pm.