Explaining that both her and Isaiah shared “complicated feelings” around TDOV and visibility of Black trans folks in general, Hearns says that the project ended up comforting her by knowing that her Black trans siblings shared the same thoughts. “The sitters of the project shared beautifully and were completely transparent about how they experienced TDOV and how they engage in it,” she tells them. “Being able to have those perspectives was really critical in letting me and Texas Isaiah know that we weren’t completely isolated from our community in terms of how we approach or think about the day.”
Isaiah also expresses that he wanted to fill a certain void in terms of how Black trans people are represented in the media. “When VSCO approached me about doing this project, I asked myself several questions,” Isaiah tells them. over the phone from Los Angeles. “What contributions can I make in conversations around images of Black trans folks? What do I want to see more of? And most importantly, what would Marsha [P. Johnson] love to see in an image made today? Elle reminded me that Marsha enjoyed being in front of the camera, so the title is an offering for her.”
Some of the portraits are multi-media collages made by Isaiah using VSCO’s Montage app. By blending multiple pictures of the subjects together with images of their surroundings and natures, he further adds elements of dimensionality and nuance to the portraits. “When I think of collages, I think of moodboarding and DIY magazines that I used to collect when I was younger,” Texas Isaiah recalls. “I thought it would be a playful way to incorporate the images in this project.”
Aside from Hearns, one of Texas Isaiah’s friends, as well as another subject, Cat Jones, also recommended people to sit for the project. Due to this network of Black trans people, connected organically by friendship, Texas Isaiah says that there was a natural camaraderie that existed when taking photographs with each of the subjects, which facilitated the image-making process.
“There are some people that I had met for the first time while photographing them, but it doesn’t feel like that,” he tells them. “Elle and Cat and all these other folks played as a conduit in how the subjects and I met, [leading to] the comfortability that was produced beforehand that helped them show up for themselves.”
Each sitter was also compensated with a small stipend, which was very important to Texas Isaiah. “It’s just a way to let them know that I am thinking about their well-being,” he says. Hearn adds, “One thing that’s so compelling about Marsha P. Johnson and her life is that she often was a sitter for legendary photographers, but she was never paid.” Even with this small gesture, Texas Isaiah pays tribute to Marsha P. Johnson and her legacy, and helps further her institute’s greater mission to help Black trans people heal, flourish, and thrive.
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