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Face to Face
Portraits by Margaret Clarke, Rosalie Favell, and Aaron Anaïs Kimberly
Aaron Anaïs Keimberly Autoportait 1
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 honesty 1
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.