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Face to Face
Portraits by Margaret Clarke, Rosalie Favell, and Aaron Anaïs Kimberly

Keimberly Autoportait 1
Keimberly Autoportait 1

Aaron Anaïs Keimberly Autoportait 1, 1997.
Aaron Anaïs Keimberly’s Autoportraits (1997) is another series of photographic self-portraits that negotiates personal expression within troubled cultural terrain. Kimberly says she worked with other subjects, but “achieved the greatest honesty1 when she turned the camera on herself. This project avoids the obvious autobiography of Favell’s work, but reaches a deeply personal level nonetheless.

The black-and-white format, the exposed edge of film framing each image, and the white backdrop are reminiscent of studio portraits or fashion photography. The bearded figure is nattily dressed in a black suit and crisp white shirt and strikes a series of casually elegant poses. The sense of contrived spontaneity and self-conscious, ironic exhibitionism are consistent with the fashion photography context.

Keimberly’s enactment of the male persona is an experiment in cross-dressing, not from the drag queen school, but from the less-visible tradition of the drag king2. There is no lavish makeup, no outrageous alteration of body shape; it is the kind of cross-dressing that could, and does, go entirely unnoticed. The tradition of women passing as men has a long history; women have disguised their gender for economic, political, and sexual reasons. My Rolodex of cultural icons immediately turns up Joan of Arc, and Elizabeth Taylor as the girl/boy jockey in National Velvet.

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1. Heather Anderson, “Aaron Anaïs Kimberly,” Unsettled Subjects (Halifax: MSVU Art Gallery, 2001).

2. About drag kings at madkats.com (http://www.madkats.com/KatDrag/timeline/dktimeline.html). No longer online.

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