Discussions around representation have been at the forefront among photographers and the art community at large in recent years. This debate has sparked questions about the relationship between the photographer and the subject, problematizing historical photographs taken for voyeuristic purposes. As photography becomes more democratic with advances in technology, the capacity to set oneself apart from other artists while respecting the integrity of those one photographs has become increasingly difficult. As a result, an urgency to portray one’s community and oneself through the camera’s lens has been steadily gaining momentum. One artist answering this call is New York City-based photographer Amanda Picotte (@amandapicotte).
Picotte is a non-binary image maker, bringing a boundless quality to the two-dimensional art of photography by warmly inviting the viewer into scenes of confident queer joy. Picotte’s photographs feel full of possibility, offering viewers a limitless perspective on life. Their imagery is unconstrained by binary labels for gender or sexuality and celebrates individuality while highlighting the importance of connected queer communities. A portraiture style rooted in their training at The School of Visual Arts, where Picotte completed a Masters in Fashion Photography. Commissioned to do professional work for clients like Vogue.com, Refinery29, Glamour UK, Google, and Tumblr, Picotte underscores the importance of disseminating images that illustrate thriving gender non-conforming people in the mainstream, as these portraits reach people currently struggling with owning their identity.
As many organizations have come under fire for facading support during celebrations like pride, Picotte’s ability to utilize corporate channels year-round to gain visibility and representation for their community is reassuring. Comfort in being one’s true self is reflected in their images, which blossom with soft glittery light and self-assured poses. Their advertisement work loving displays the queer community, as in their collaboration with kitchen cookware brand Our Place and Viviana Matsuda that is shown below.
Picotte’s work exemplifies how artists can move forward and navigate an era in which photography is being called out for its entanglement with the legacies of colonialism and capitalist structures. In a recent Instagram post, Picotte describes their acknowledgment of these complexities saying “non-binary people have a rich and ancient history” and crediting three fellow artists for introducing them to “research on the correlation between colonization and the gender binary.” This informed approach to the history of pictorial representation allows Picotte to continue making successful portraiture and participate in the fine art, fashion, and commercial photography sectors. Thereby confirming the developing precedent that a photographer’s intention and understanding of a subject matter shines through in the final image.
Picotte’s professional attitude becomes most apparent through the recurring sky motif in their work. A background choice that adds an angelic almost spiritual quality to their photographs, Picotte’s world is one of real-life dreams. Also an indication of Picotte’s flawless art direction, this theme presents their subject’s gaze in captivating and powerful ways. Picotte may not be predicting blue skies free of past storms for the gender non-conforming community. But their images certainly work to help shelter from the problems of misrepresentation by those trying to take advantage of community members.