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This artist’s Naked Paint Parties are a celebration of trans and non-binary bodies

Photography from a Naked Paint Party by Landyn Pan

New York-based LGBTI photographer Landyn Pan, disillusioned with the lack of representation of trans bodies, started an event to honor the bodies of trans and non-binary individuals. The event? A naked paint party, documented with a group photo shoot.

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With mainstream representation of trans bodies focusing on the ‘before’ and ‘after,’ many other types of trans and non-binary bodies are left out. One doesn’t necessarily have to be on hormones or have surgery to identify a certain way. Pan hopes to make these bodies recognized in their new project.

‘Realizing the truth about your own gender is liberating. I just want these photos to show what’s being ignored. What’s not necessarily simple, respectable, beautiful or palatable,’ Pan told Vice.

So far, Pan has hosted three of these paint parties in New York City and Los Angeles. They plan to host more in different cities, and hope to inspire trans and non-binary individuals to live authentically.

Landyn Pan

‘I always felt awkward in my body and uncomfortable with nudity,’ Pan told Vice about the inspiration behind the parties.

‘Back in 2015, I had just gotten top surgery and started testosterone, but there were still “undesirable” parts of my body like the loose skin on my chest that was leftover from surgery. It may not have been noticeable to some people, but to me it was all I could focus on at the time. I had issues with intimacy and my sexuality and I was over being uncomfortable in my own skin. I thought that being naked with others in a safe, non-sexual setting would challenge me and push me to think differently.’

‘Between 2015 and 2018, trans representation in media had really boomed but what I saw didn’t reflect the lives of most trans people I knew in real life. It was frustrating for me and I knew I wasn’t alone. I saw this project as a way for different trans people to get together and release that frustration in a healing way that centers our stories and honors our feelings. I also realized that my gender is more non-binary than binary and I wanted an authentic way to express myself.’

Trans is more than ‘beautiful’

Unlike other projects for transgender representation, Pan doesn’t want this to be about trans folks being seen as ‘beautiful.’

‘The purpose of this is project not #transisbeautiful or to have photos that look beautiful, but to just let trans people be however they are — proud, dysphoric, happy, sad, serious, silly, weird — in a space with other trans people who are there to support each other’s spirits and affirm each other’s bodies and existence,’ they explain.

‘For this project, I focused on the body over things like makeup or fashion because you can’t hide your body from yourself. There are so many things about it that will never change even with medical intervention. Your body is your home and you don’t have to love everything about it, but you have to learn to live with it and accept it. Having nude photos of trans people also challenges what a “masculine,” “male,” “female,” or “feminine” body looks like. You literally have no idea what someone’s gender is by just looking at their body.’

What to expect from the Parties

Of what people can expect at one of Pan’s paint parties, they say:

‘People can expect a totally non-judgmental and supportive space with no cis people present. The shoots last a few hours. While “party” is in the title of the project, the groups are really small, intimate, and chill. With the smallest group I’ve had being five people and biggest being 17.’

‘Before we get naked, we establish trust. We spend about an hour or so introducing ourselves, setting intentions, and getting to know each other and our stories. Once we’re comfortable and ready we get onto the painting, which takes up another few hours. Sometimes we’ll talk casually and other times people will bring up more serious topics like physical transitions, harassment they’ve experienced, family acceptance, etcetera… I think it’s really important to have conversations about our bodies and identities before and during the photoshoots because it’s pretty rare to get that kind of space with only other trans people.’

‘I’m really hoping, as I build an audience for this project, I will be able to reach more people and even travel to other cities. In the future, I will definitely be hosting photoshoots for people of color and I also want to get a broader age range since almost all of the people in the project so far are in their 20s. I would love for some photoshoots to be intergenerational.’

The Pictures

Check out images from Landyn Pan’s Naked Paint Parties below.

 

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The purpose is not “trans is beautiful” or to have photos that look beautiful, but to just let trans people be however they are. I chose to focus on the full naked body over other things like clothes and makeup because the body is something you can’t hide from yourself. There’s a lot you can’t change. How do you deal with that? I love playing with paint even though not everyone’s an artist and it won’t necessarily come out artistic. Painting is just a very therapeutic experience. You can’t tell sometimes how healing it can be to admit you have dysphoria in a certain part of your body and have someone draw something fun on it like a flower or a wave until you try it for yourself.

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Anything else?

Landyn Pan is not the only LGBTI photographer using the nude form as a form of artistic protest. Ron Amato, another NYC-based photographer, has used images of naked men in his latest project titled Gay in Trumpland.

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Author: Rafaella Gunz