Loren Cameron – Body Alchemy, Transsexual Portraits

Body AlchemyThe photo on the cover of Body Alchemy (1996) is now pretty famous, at least in FTM circles. It’s a powerful black and white self-portrait of trans man Loren Cameron injecting himself with testosterone in his buttocks.

Cameron’s Body Alchemy came out in 1996, a pioneering effort in transsexual portraiture that surely inspired other projects such as Kael T. Block‘s grittier XX Boys project.

The book begins with a wonderful quote from Jeffrey Maitland:

…Transformation is the art of allowing our essential nature, as body-mind-spirit, to manifest completely and freely without conflict and fixation. It is the art of freeing the whole person, body and all. It is not the willful attempt to change who and what we are, but the art of becoming who we are.

(Who is Maitland? I’ve looked him up online but came up empty. I’d love to know more about him–this is a great quote!)

Cameron then paints the story of his path to photography, followed by several moving self portraits accompanied by his thoughts and experiences of being a transgender man.

The New Man Series follows: a collection of FTM portraits with commentary from the photo subjects. The one that really stood out for me was the portrait of James (Jamison) Green. In the photo, Green is playing a hand drum, and he explains that he lost his singing voice once he started hormone therapy. I read those first words over a few times before moving on through the rest of the text…

One of my concerns with going on T (and judging from the referring search queries to this blog, it’s a concern to many other FTMs as well) is the changes it will bring to my singing voice. Everything I’ve read indicates that while there are no guarantees, there’s a very good chance I could get through it with persistence, but I’m nervous about the possibility that the tonal quality of my singing voice will degrade. Here in front of me, is a well-known trans man who was forced to exchange singing for drumming. I haven’t had much trouble finding success stories of trans men and their changed singing voices, but the tales of loss seem harder to find.

The next series of images are of reconstructed chests and genitalia, including model examples of metoidioplasty and phalloplasty. This is followed by another set of profiles of Fellas, then before and after portraits of trans men. The book closes with photo essays and portraits of Cameron and his partner Kayt.

Cameron takes beautiful and evocative photos. Body Alchemy is a coffee table style book that you can read cover-to-cover within an hour, but that you’re likely to revisit to take a deeper look at the photos and the amazing men featured in this influential book’s pages.

Learn more about Loren Cameron:

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