Thoughts on Identity


Walking down the streets on a coffee break, picking up lunch, running errands - I was constantly aware of the perceptions of others. Perhaps it was because I was always looking, watching, studying how people looked at one another, at themselves, how their features changed based on light, weather, the day of the week. In the beginning I always carried a camera. I stood out then, but not because I was hidden behind a lens. My identity, the face I showed the world, was all steel-toed boots, gender-bending suits, florescent feather boas. I hid by standing out - by becoming a character. And I sought to fit in through the same means. When you’re a weird kid, people rarely question what you are doing or why. (And you assume they wouldn’t understand, anyway.) It was a world of observation. Closed, except to the androgynous-neohippie-intellectual-artist-types. It was the summer before my first year in college.

Later I sought to blend in. I put on suits of a different kind, with heels and handbags, slowly expanding a wardrobe of prized Goodwill finds to include the fashionable and infinitely more corporate-America-appropriate Banana Republic sales racks. Ten years and three careers later, I gave away three dozen pairs of heels and traded boxes full of tailored slacks for skinny jeans and tank tops. I went back to digging through tables piled high with used clothes, delighting in “the find,” now measured in pesos rather than quarters.

With every transition I have discovered something of myself. Each time I put on a costume, became someone or something, I put together puzzle pieces of an identity. I like to think that I am now fluid. The heels of Manhattan give way to the sandals of San Miguel. No longer is it about appearance or the perception of others - it is the practicality of cobblestone streets, the joy of clothing I can dance in. And I am still never without a camera, whether film, phone, or digital. I still frame the world and through these images I have learned to see. This daily act of looking and recording, combined with years of costumes both on and off stage, continue to fuel my ongoing fascination with identity and the selves we show to the world. Each time someone steps in front of the lens, they are puzzles. I look to see how the pieces fit together.