With Instagram's insidious, and downright tyrannical presence bleeding out through our phone screens and into our realities, the desire to conform has never been greater on social media.
This idea of adherence is hurled at us through the projections of "daily" life, as seen by bonafide celebrities, models, and "Insta-lebrities."
Notably in the gay community, these projections come in the form of an undeniable "masc-washing" sweeping through social media, hookup apps, etc. For gay men, one trip through the "Suggested Page" on Instagram is an oppressive smoothie of shirtless, gym bro pec-warlock (mostly white) beef patties; a both direct and indirect rejection of the femininity that is so tied into our queer history.
The "Masc Only, No Fems" regime is very real.
Los Angeles photographer Antonio Marziale has been able to challenge that somewhat alarming trend with their Instagram project "The Femme Pride," a celebration of femininity, which Toni sees as both fearsome, beautiful armor and weaponry. We caught up with Marziale to TK TK TK. "It is important to challenge my lens and even instincts in some cases, every time I get behind the camera to take a picture," they said in a statement. "I am a privileged, white, cis-passing, gender-nonconforming individual, who has a love for photography and the individuals I meet and get to take pictures of. That within itself is something that I have to think about, where my place is in regards to other photographers- trans photographers, photographers of color."
Antoino Marzialevia the Femme Pride
"Every artists' body is political, even before they decide to take action and create a piece of art in any capacity," the statement continues. "It is essential for artists, particularly white artists (such as myself), to deconstruct and understand their position in regards to privilege and opportunity and how it effects their work."
Antonio's stunning portraits capture queer cis men, trans women and non-gender conforming individuals in quiet and blissful moments of femininity, donning gowns and other feminine wear; Antonio often shoots these people in their own homes.
There's a welcoming if not slightly voyeuristic quality to the photos, with the underlying invitation for us to escape with them. "When I started taking pictures I identified as a feminine male, and that was reflected in my work. Recently I am identifying as gender-nonconforming, and that's where my work's been gravitating towards nowadays," Marziale wrote. "I struggle with understanding my place in the photography world, as I think it gets complicated when people start to take pictures of individuals and experiences they don't directly relate to, such as a trans experience; I must ask myself if I am helping the community."
The account transcends the homogeneous prison Instagram has generated, with Antonio creating a safe realm where both the subject and the viewer can tap into something that is often hindered or repressed. "I must ask myself if the photographs that I am taking are appropriate (as opposed to appropriating) in relation to my own body and experience…I can't say that I have the answers to that, especially because I feel I relate more to a trans experience than a cis one, however it is something that is on my mind," Antonio reflected. "Most importantly, I must understand my position as a photographer in relation to others around me who are doing similar work, and make sure that I do not take opportunities from them, which even this article brings up for me."
"However, I think this is something that white artists don't think about enough, and we need to be smarter. Artists in a position of privilege need to stop thinking that just because we think something, it should be shared. I say shared because everyone has the right to create, to be inspired, but if we are not making active steps towards challenging our bodies in regards to opportunity, then we are contributing to the problem."
They ended by thanking artist "María Jose for taking the time to teach and discuss many of the things written in this statement with me, as many of the learnings come directly from her mouth; she is an inspiration to me as a photographer and thinker. "
Peep through Antonio's photos below.