Mariette Pathy Allen is not new to the photography world, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. With every snap of her camera, she has made her voice and intent known through every captured moment for now 50 years.
In the late 70’s, the trajectory of her photography career completely changed as she became exposed to the Transgender Community and caught glimpses of their everyday lives. At a time, where the transgender community was even more misunderstood and largely marginalized, Allen embarked on a mission to shed light onto their lives through her art. Pretty soon, Allen’s work became an instrumental piece in expanding representation and visibility and challenging society’s perceptions.
Her photographs have shown to break down stereotypes and provide a deeper understanding and look into gender identity and expression. She captures intimate portraits and narratives that humanize and celebrate those she has the chance to photograph. Her work has been shown at prestigious venues scuh as the George Eastman Museum and the International Center of Photography. In addition to her photography, Allen has worked to educate through lectures on transgender issues in fornt of audiences ranging from academic institutions tot eh general public.
In recognition of her advocacy, Allen has received numerous awards including the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for magazine Photography and the Pioneer Award from the Fantasia fair Transgender Conference. She’s also published her work in several books including “The Gender Frontier” and “Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them.”
To celebrate this years Pride Month, on June 1 to July 30, 2023, Mariette Pathy Allen will be showcasing her work in yet another exhibit partnered with Culture Lab LIC, and curated by Orestes Gonzalez and Jesse Egner, for their Breaking Boundaries: 50 Years of Images showcasing Allen’s journey through her art. Along side, will be another exhibit, Breaking More Boundaries, of other artists who were inspired by Allen and her work. These pieces range from photography, paintings, sculptures, mixed media. Of these artists will feature Zackary Drucker and Jess T. Dugan and their artwork in the exhibit.
We caught up with Mariette Pathy Allen to celebrate the debut of this beautiful showcase in honor of Pride Month. Check out what she had to say below.
GLAAD x Mariette Pathy Allen
GLAAD: This upcoming exhibit is named “Breaking Boundaries: 50 Years of Images” and it has a strong emphasis on the inclusiveness of the community. Including when it comes to our community of Queer People of Color. What was the importance of this name for you and what influenced this years’ exhibit in particular?
Allen: I am quoting Orestes Gonzalez who conceived of the exhibition:
“Since the late 80’s, I’ve always been a fan of Mariette’s work. Her groundbreaking images of a world I barely knew was both an eye opener and a consciousness creator for a segment of the LGBTQ community still struggling with acceptance and inclusivity. When we did our annual Pride Month group exhibit at CultureLab last year (which featured a triptych of hers), we asked if she would be willing to show her work retrospectively. Her acceptance immediately brought to mind another opportunity: to feature artists whose work was either inspired by her imagery or was brought to light by her opening up avenues that otherwise were closed before.”
This exhibition consists of a mini-retrospective of my work since 1980. Except for Zackary Drucker and Jess Dugan who are guest artists, the “Breaking More Boundaries” exhibition is work by artists who responded to our cold call. Orestes Gonzalez, my co-curator, chose the names for both exhibitions. This was my first time I had the privilege of curating an exhibition (Along with Orestes Gonzalez and Jesse Egner) this was my first experience as a curator and I was thrilled to see the range of work we were offered. This exhibition is needed now. The current backlash against transgender and non-binary people is heartbreaking! This attack threatens to erase the accomplishments of gender pioneers as well as the efforts of anonymous people fighting for civil rights in medical, legal, and religious institutions. As the level of ignorance and violence all over the country increases, I hope that by presenting gender-expansive people in the daylight of everyday life, as relatable human beings, there is a chance that ignorance and prejudice. and violence surrounding us could be diminished.
GLAAD: This project was a lifelong and year round project. What has that process been like and how did you prepare and motivate yourself for this particular showing?
Allen: I identify as an activist and have always participated in the movement for gender-variant people. This exhibition is a great opportunity to show my work as an artist and an activist.
GLAAD: You’ve worked to showcase the Transgender community through photography for decades. Your work has ranged in emotions and set up, from cross dressing to sharing snippets of casual, every day life. How did you originally find yourself in this space to primarily focus on the beauty of Trans individuals?
Allen: I met a group of crossdressers in 1978 and made friends with one of them. Through Vicky West, I was introduced to the crossdressing community, but the more I traveled to conferences and clubs, the more people I met and photographed. By the ‘90s I got to know an exhilarating variety of people and philosophies. I relate to this world of exploration and questioning. What is the essence of a human being?
GLAAD: What do you hope to accomplish and hope for people to receive when experiencing the work shown at this years’ exhibit?
Allen: I want to show the beauty of people who identify in myriad ways. Art brings up emotions and questions. I hope that everyone who goes to the exhibitions over the next two months will have new experiences and understanding as they look at our work. There might even be people whose prejudices melt.
GLAAD: How has your approach to your art differ now from when you started in the beginning of this journey?
Allen: In the beginning, I made more formal portraits. After a while, especially when people were engaged in protests, dancing, in an emotional state, or playing with their children, I needed to be more spontaneous. I enjoy both ways of working.
GLAAD: Your photography over the years has played its own part in Trans representation and highlighting the full complexity of each individual that you photograph. Do you consider your work as activism?
Allen: I do consider my work as activism. Along with the photographs themselves, I have made slide presentations for different organizations worldwide, worked on films as a still photographer and advisor, been on radio and television programs, created programs at conferences, and have four published books. My photographs have been exhibited worldwide and are in private and public collections.
Come experience the showing for yourself starting on the opening ceremony on June 3, 2023 to July 30, 2023 at Culture Lab LIC in New York City. And be sure to keep up with Marietter Pathy Allen along with others who made this showcase possible through their websites and Instagram.
Mariette Pathy Allen: Official Site /Instagram
Culture Lab LIC: Official Site /Instagram
Jess T. Dugan: Official Site /Instagram
Zackary Drucker: Official Site /Instagram
Orestes Gonzalez: Official Site /Instagram
Jesse Egner: Official Site /Instagram