Columbus-based photographer and creative director Mx. Vincent-Natasha Gay — NV, for short — is in the midst of a creative bloom.
On November 19, Gay is set to showcase a massive portrait series featuring trans and gender non-conforming people on the main floor at Stonewall Columbus.
The series — titled ‘This is Trans: A Photography Journey of Awareness and Love’ — was sparked by Gay’s own experience as a genderfluid person, and the breadth and complexity of personal identity among LGBTQ+ people.
Instead of a narrow, cis-centered vision of transness, Gay’s portraits embrace the slippery, lawlessness inherent in gender, and the singular importance of every queer person’s journey.
“This [series]is for the trans community, by the trans community,” Gay said. “It’s to show that you can live as being trans. You can live as your authentic self.”
‘I picked up a camera as a way to tell stories’
For Gay, introducing their friends, family and coworkers to their most authentic self was both joyful…and devastating.
“I don’t really like to call it ‘coming out’. Because it’s really letting people in.” Gay said. “You’re giving people a test. You’re saying ‘Do you love me unconditionally?’ If you pass, you get to experience that joy with me.”
Not everyone in Gay’s life passed the test.
When their birth family disowned them, and they had to leave their longtime career as an educator, Gay entered a period of intense change and introspection.
With the help of therapy and a support system of close friends, Gay finally began to find joy in their own gender identity and presentation.
Still, they struggled to express the complexities of their experience. Searching for a creative outlet — and a way to connect with trans and gender non-conforming people — Gay turned to photography.
“During the pandemic, I picked up a camera as a way to tell stories,” Gay said. “Turns out, I had kind of a knack for it and I started to document people.”
After working with a non-binary model, Gay began thinking about a portrait series that would both document LGBTQ+ people and their stories, and provide a safe, joyous, queer and deeply collaborative experience — something trans and gender non-conforming models don’t often encounter while being photographed.
“I wanted to do this a different way,” Gay said. “When they see their picture, they need to feel euphoric.”
‘This is Trans’
The intimate portrait series features more than 70 subjects, and may still grow.
“There are people of all different identities, all different pronouns, different backgrounds and ages,” Gay said. “From elderly to people that are still in school, there are no two people alike in this project — and I love it.”
Those singularities are precisely what Gay hopes to celebrate, both with the portrait series and the exhibition’s opening event.
At Stonewall Columbus, Gay’s opening event will include the screening of an accompanying documentary film directed by Gay, free drag performances and a silent auction featuring LGBTQ+ artists from around the world.
Gay’s portrait series will hang on the main floor, featuring each subject’s pronouns and a single personal quote.
“Their names will never appear,” Gay said. “You’re getting to know the person and getting to know who they are, without really knowing them.”
‘To be trans is to be human’
Often, young LGBTQ+ people sense they are different from their peers. They wonder if there are other people like them.
Above all else, Gay hopes their work documenting queer and trans people will help build safer, more joyful and more equitable communities for trans people everywhere.
They also hope that seeing their own images alongside the images of other trans and gender non-conforming people will help both subjects and attendees honor and celebrate themselves and one another.
“Before we come out we believe that we’re alone, but we’re not,” Gay said. “This is to show that there’s nothing to fear and there’s nothing to hate. To be trans is to be human, and however you feel most euphoric is exactly what you should do.” 🔥
- To learn more about Mx. Vincent-Natasha Gay and their work, click here.