“Z” ambrotypes by Rowan Renee

August 20 – September 20, 2018
Artist Talk: September 20, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Z is a collection of nude ambrotype portraits working with transgender, cisgender, and a spectrum of genderqueer and gender non-conforming individuals. Through Z, I aim to deconstruct conventions of the nude body towards more diverse representations. The title of the collection refers to a proposed gender neutral pronoun.

Each image records a collaborative dialogue between model and photographer that develops over the course of a shoot. These conversations consider the power dynamics of the photographic gaze, the ambiguities of gender performance and embodiment, and the complex intersection of vulnerability and empowerment that arise when one’s body is read as “queer”. Through these portraits I cultivate a connection between subject and viewer that transcends the normative categories of “man” and “woman”, leaving space for the nuances of personhood that remain when these categories dissolve.

I use the 19th century Wet-Plate Collodion process with contemporary subjects as a revision to historic representations of gender non-conforming people. Gender variance has always existed, but Victorian photographers routinely medicalized and pathologized their images, perpetuating a visual violence that fragments, dehumanizes and fetishizes queer bodies. The images in Z are conceived as reparative acts,  superimposing new imagery into the gaps left by history.

The timeliness of transgender visibility in mainstream media makes Z an urgent body of work to reach a wider audience. Recent federal legislation limiting transgender Military service, and discriminatory bathroom bills passed in several cities and states, have highlighted the need for further social and legislative change to achieve full inclusion and equality. Towards this goal I channel a photographic process that creates intimacy; a powerful tool to advance a worldview that is open, malleable and accepting of diversity.


Name: Rowan Renee

Preferred Pronouns: They/Them

Website: http://rowanrenee.com

Instagram: @brooklyntintype

Artist Bio: Rowan Renee is a genderqueer artist whose work explores themes of gender and power. Renee has received awards from The Aaron Siskind Foundation, The Rema Hort Mann Foundation and The Anchorage Museum of Art. Previous solo exhibitions include “Z” at Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation (2015) and “Bodies of Wood” (2017) at The Aperture Foundation. They have received fellowships from The Jerome Foundation, the McColl Center for Visual Art and the Ossian Arts Fellowship at the Jain Family Institute. They have been profiled on NPR, in The New York Times, VICE, Hyperallergic, Huffington Post, American Photo Magazine and Guernica, among many other publications. They are currently living between Brooklyn, New York and Ann Arbor, Michigan.