Erasing Blurred Lines
Interview Latoya P. Henry
When you glance under the surface, you’ll discover an interesting perspective of things. Society consistently throws around the metaphor “You Could Never Judge a book By Its Cover” yet people are prejudged based on their looks, choices and circumstances. Most people don’t approach situations with an open heart or mindset; they are quick to dismiss what they don’t understand. Germany based photographer Lisa Diandra Kruegar is generating a path for open expression by examining a profound understanding of why and how people feel in terms of Gender. Within her series “Gender Bender” she removes the blurred visions of labels and reveals a person who is true to their nature and comfortable with their identity. Krueger examines her subjects before photographing, to grasp a solid understanding of the person. Her desire is to compose an image with substance that speaks to a person observing. Primarily Krueger images reveal captivating sentiment, which delves into the spirit of her subjects.
In five words how would you sum up Lisa Diandra Krueger and the fundamentals of your work?
Like to question existing structures
Tell us a bit about your feelings towards gender equality and labels. What made you want to explore the world of gender? Is there a specific message you wanted to disclose, and what are you trying to communicate towards your audience with your photographs?
The most important question was how far gender is constructed by society. Questioning your own identity means having reached a high level of awareness. The strict gender roles that used to be there for a long time are becoming blurred. This work is meant to strengthen consciousness for constructions, which we sometimes follow blindly.
We’re living in a society where people don’t want to be defined by labels and in the description of your recent series “Gender Bender”, you noted “A gender bender or a "gender fucker" means a person facing sex roles and rigid role-specific behavioral patterns rebelled. Gender bending is a new form of social Activism in reaction against the generalizations of gender categorizations.” Share with us the story you want to disclose and how did the entire project come into place?
Society‘s trend goes to not categorize people by gender anymore, which maybe right. Anyway, I’ve noticed that this movement is starting to reach a huge mass very slowly. I recognize that a lot of people still let themselves be reduced to their gender. To break it down: there are still more women around that put on makeup and have longer hair than men. Everyone has to decide on his or her own whether if this is something about naturalness, but I think it is important to think about it.
While gathering materials for “Gender Bender”, for instance, the people, place, timing and setting. What did you learn in the exchange of information and what was the development that happened between your observational experiences to the image becoming a reality?
For me it was important to meet interesting characters that question the well-known gender roles. I didn’t want to take pictures of drag queens, who represent the female role most of the time, but rather someone, who combines the contrast of masculinity and femininity in one person in a classy way. I wasn’t very lucky with it in Frankfurt, so I moved to Berlin for 2 months. There it worked. I went every week to drag races and used to hang around in gay clubs and took pictures of the scene. This is how I finally got in contact with the people that I portrayed and photographed at their homes.
The people featured in your series, I’m sure there’s a personal story for each individual. Could you share with us a little of everyone’s background history and why did they want to be a part of this series?
In my opinion, does it seem that the photographed persons have something rebellious. You can feel the power. It is underlined for example with the military look, which looks very self-confident and gutsy. All of the portrayed characters have had a creative background. I took pictures among others of Leon, Steeve and Timothee. The photographs are in a way, very fashion, and the guys seem like models. The world of fashion creates for society the concept of ideal images. I was interested in presenting people, which break through the ideal images. I contacted Leon via Facebook, because I was fascinated by his way of self-portrayal. Directly at the first meeting we took the pictures. He is a very relaxed dude. Steeve, I got to know through the Drag Races, a short crazy guy with a very interesting multifaceted identity. He lived even for a long time in Japan and is a singer. Timothee worked as far as I can remember in the fashion scene. He had a very elegant touch also in his gestures.
Do you try to articulate particular emotions through your work? Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
At this time I was very interested in understanding how far an individual is self-determined or how much it is influenced and constituted from the outside. To me the scene which I photographed seemed very reflected on this issue. The portrayed characters presented themselves very confident in a self-chosen role. The photoflash plays a certain role in that works because it focuses on the artificiality. There are some mistakes in the images, which were partially cut.
Is there anything that you’ve acquired or learned or let go of in terms of your experience, while working on the series “Gender Bender”?
Don’t argue with a drag queen. This may have serious consequences.
“I want to criticize and poke fun at the roles of women and of men too. I want to try and show how not-normal I can be. I want to ridicule and destroy the whole cosmology of restrictive sex roles and sexual identification.” You highlighted this quote in your series, what does this signify for you? Does this apply to the way you viewed your series and how you wanted your audience to perceive your work?
Changes occur often from a destructive conflict. In my opinion this quote stands for the verbal statement of the images and the fighting spirit of the scene. This series of photographs should wake up the observer and convince the people to deal with themselves, to clarify their personal role and its origin. Who consciously deconstructed his own personality, is also able to consciously construct it. That is self-determination.
What are some of the reactions you received for your work, did you have any positive feedback?
Mostly positive feedback, but it might have something to do with the fact that the art and fashion scene is nowadays more open to these topics, and play with them on purpose. In Russia my series of photographs would trigger for sure a different reaction.
The beauty of photography is the ability to develop things that one could appreciate, for each series you’ve created, I’m sure there is a hidden message behind each story. If your photographs could express themselves verbally, what would they reveal to the person viewing them, and what type of person observes and relates to your images?
The photographs were developed very easily and without constraint, but the selections of key images are very reflected.
The picture “The Vitruvian Man” reminds ironically of the idealized presentation of a man from Leonardo. The scene took place in a sandbox. That shows also the education in which we got formed according to certain concepts.
The picture “Constructed Box” represents antiquated ways of thinking about gender and the break through of these thoughts, ideas and rules.
The picture “Wo Man” shows in my opinion that the initial concepts of gender roles do not have enough room for their personal growth and self-expression.
And the picture “The Mask” presents the part of exchange between the individual and its environment. The part of who we really are and the one which is influenced by society. If the discrepancy between yourself and the social values are too big, it is hard to identify yourself with your environment.
The picture “Gender-Bender” stands for border and border crossing.
“For me nudity is something natural. However in my opinion the human form is rarely portrayed naturally. Most of the time sexuality is used as stimulation for the market economy. These kinds of images dominate.”
As for disadvantages, what’s the toughest hindrance you’ve faced as a photographer? How did you escalate past this hurdle and what is the best way to move forward past a barrier in your path?
Currently the biggest challenge for me is to find a good responsible handling with photography. The photography is in a critical period. It loses confidence because of the media manipulation and is used by anyone as a everyday tool to document the time.
Ich finde empfinde es zur Zeit als größte Herausforderung mit dem Medium der Fotografie einen guten Umgang zu finden. Die Fotografie befindet sich in einer kritischen Zeit. Und verliert das Vetrauen durch die Manipulation der Medien und wird von jedem als alltägliches Mittel benutzt um die Zeit zu dokumentieren.
Share with us the most current project you’re working on and the details you want to distinguish with this series compared to previous works?
At the moment I am very interested in various types of alternative energy and the conflict between new energies and the market economy. Furthermore I want to find new ways of dealing with photography.
For “Bare” we wanted to connect deeply with celebrating the human form. People of today mostly shy away from the beauty of the body, by trying to portray sexuality and nudity as crude and inappropriate. What are your personal views?
For me nudity is something natural. However in my opinion the human form is rarely portrayed naturally. Most of the time sexuality is used as stimulation for the market economy. These kinds of images dominate.