Six years ago, photographer Chloe Aftel embarked on the project Outside & In Between – a cross-country examination of the non-binary and genderqueer community in the United States.
Aftel travelled all over the country talking to and photographing subjects, at a time when the public discourse around genderqueer issues was not as prominent as it is today. In order to find them, she posted on social media and let the news spread by word of mouth.
For the project, Aftel made sure to remove all signs of “professional” portrait work: the shots are not located in a studio, use only natural light, and are not airbrushed. They are raw and real – depicting a community that makes up our population, but is often forgotten or abused by the mainstream.
“I want people to be their most honest selves, to be imperfect and vulnerable and beautiful, as that honesty is what moves me the most,” Aftel explains. “I want to hear about the subject, what they are or are not into, what they do, how they feel, a story about their life, whatever they are into. Anything is fair game to discuss if they are willing.”
Many of the subjects are looking directly at the camera and appear proud, strong and confident. This is partly because Aftel made sure that each person was in control of their environment, and given the chance to discuss exactly how they would be presented. “It was a dual purpose request, as it allowed them to feel comfortable which was key, but it also allowed me more insight into who they are,” she says. “Be it a room filled with their things or an environment where they feel peace, where they chose greatly enriched the image.”
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