In a cartoon, if youre ugly and look into a mirror, you shatter the mirror...
In real life... if you look in the mirror and dont like what you see... the mirror shatters you...
This was a very personal and special shoot for both myself and Mina, but before getting into that, I wanted to talk about the journey that got us to that point, and why its so important.
Life is a journey, with no real beginning or end. You can say life is the beginning and death is the end, but as a person who shouldn't exist (ill explain that later), I would say at some point before your inception... you were thought about as a concept, a legacy to fulfill prior to being born. and death is not the end, we all have legacies we leave behind, with what we do in this journey.
The biggest journey in life is the never ending and always changing journey to find ones self.
We are constantly discovering and re-discovering things about ourselves, getting to know ourselves better, and figuring out who we are... which is a difficult journey, because the path is constantly changing.
How confusing is it to know, that no matter what you do, you will never fully know or understand yourself because you are in a constant state of becoming who you are.
We are all on this journey together and separately and for many, it is not an easy one.
I, however, had a pretty normal upbringing. I was raised in a 2 boys, mom and dad middle class working family. Like most, my parents split, but not until I was like 18? (i think they stayed together for that long for my little brother, who knows)
Then, after I had known for YEARS, my mother came out as a lesbian. I could not have been more proud to hear her finally say it out loud to us. SO so so proud of her, she really is an incredible and amazing person.
So at one point this thought crossed my head... if she had discovered this earlier in life, I would not exist. I'm not sure if back then she was in denial, or still just figuring out who she was, but none the less I am grateful to be here by whatever strange twist of fate made it happen.
Anyway, prior to my mother coming out when I was 18 or so... I had long been a member of the GSA (gay straight alliance) and been an ADL (anti-defamation league) peer trainer (went to classrooms and did workshops and games talking about acceptance and equality, gender and race issues etc.)
I have always been a strong advocate for all of those things, and will continue to be for the rest of my life.
I look at ignorance as a multistage disease that can be cured with knowledge, just assume some are at the end stages of the disease, and can not be cured.
Anyway... having this be a big part of my life growing up, and having it be a part of my family as well, I always look toward breaking gender boundaries, or doing any shoot that will make someone more comfortable with who they are.
I think my most infamous and well known gender boundary shoot as of now would be Jeffree Star having a bloody period on the background. Which is one of my favorite concepts and favorite shots I've done in my career.
Jeffree is someone who pushes all of these boundaries that should not exist. So working with him is always going to be awesome.
----now like a Tarantino movie, rather than moving forward in chronological order - we are going to rewind to 2003.----
Life of Agony was on their river runs again tour (i think thats what it was called?) - I ended up covering 2 of those shows - and then another one in 2004 - where at the palladium I did a quick shoot of Keith, Joey, Scott Lee (palladium) and Gina (palladium) and also nerded out and got my river runs dvd and cd signed by the entire band. - Though I was far from a super fan (I had only after seeing them live gotten the CD and DVD)
A few months later I did a quick shoot with them at a festival called Locobazooka - it was just a quick natural light shot, and as with many of my shoots, I was asking how tour was going, you know... standard quick photo shoot banter - which was my first real conversation with Keith Caputo... and honestly, I cant really remember what was said, im sure it was along the lines of tour talk, and how the images will be in the magazine in a month etc.
Back then I was well aware that he had another persona, a drag persona (or so I had thought at the time), though I didnt know much about it, I didnt know it wasnt public knowledge, but it seemed to be kept as a deep dark secret among fans who knew of it.
fast forward about 6 years... twitter exists. I find Keith Caputo on there, and really want to do a cool shoot with him. So I hit him up on facebook and on twitter as I didn't have his direct contact information, and that was the best I could do... nothing.
A short while later the got monsters video was released and hit me like a truck. it was SO powerful and SO moving. It is a thing of true beauty, and is VITAL to view. It still brings tears up every single time I watch it, because I know SO many struggle with their own identity, and can go through life-long and extremely intense trials and tribulations due to it.
The identity struggle doesn't only apply to male/female but SO many appearance based issues people struggle with every day. The duality of wanted to be accepted by others, but also being able to accept yourself. it seems simple to so many, but to SO many others, its a constant struggle. Can you honestly look in the mirror and say youve always loved what youve seen and never wanted to change it in one way or another?
Shortly after that, I hit him up again, this time through the website, and this time with a bit more understanding of where he was coming from. I get through and we start planning a shoot.
During our planning - a media FURY breaks out - Keith Caputo SEX CHANGE!!!! CUTTING OFF HIS DICK! ENDING LIFE OF AGONY!! GAY!!! FAGGOT!!! WEARING A DRESS ON STAGE!!!
Keith had announced his transformation, his becoming... her becoming... Mina Caputo. (to clear up any confusion with those who dont know who is who.. Keith = Mina - and i will be referring to her as Mina for the rest of this - as chronologically - she is now Mina in the timeline of this blog)
Being that I had been discussing a shoot with Mina, this was just SOOO much fuel for the fire. Instead of Mina defending herself, she just sort of sat back and laughed at how ridiculous this all was... one statement was true while the other HUNDREDS were not.
Every single post bashing Mina was met with 100s and 1000s of comments from fans supporting her and her decisions.
It was tabloid journalism at its very worst and I felt we needed to fire back, but not with words... with something more powerful than words...
SO! Not only would it be the greatest honor and privilege to do the first real Mina Caputo photo shoot, but we had SO many concepts and ideas that we both felt were perfect. This was going to be a monumental photo shoot for not just Mina, but myself as well.
Images are far more powerful than words, and I wanted to make this shoot SO powerful that each image isnt worth a thousand words... but each images has the gravity to SILENCE everyone on both sides of a pointless argument, and have them just look in awe of what is in front of them.
We were in the same mindset but still I wasnt sure what we were going to be comfortable with, what boundaries we could push, and what direction we would ultimately take once the lights were up.
SO! - just before the euro LOA tour, Mina came up from NYC, crashed at the house, then we hit the studio in the morning.
I had Melissa McDermott on make up, who is not only my favorite make up artist, but the artist I've worked with the most, and I knew she would be able to create anything we needed.
We started simple, in studio, fashion style portraits - but at this point we were really just getting a feel for how we work together, posing, lighting, etc. theres a slew of great shots from these but I wanted to start with where we went outside and the proverbial shell was clearly GONE!
We went outside and I wanted to go with natural light, low f-stop feel
We started in front of a green wall which REALLY brought out her eyes, they just POPPED! and even made the clothing pop out a bunch as well. I wanted to go as soft as possible shooting at 2.8 with the 24-70 lens. some poses were my idea while others were Mina just doing what came naturally for her and ended up being perfect.
here are a few
After shooting around the green wall we went to the nearby grass hill and I wanted to get some lens flare shots for a cross process final
check it out
We did a final outdoor set by a concrete wall, which also made her eyes glow, and looked incredible shooting at a low depth of field (still at 2.8)
To finish the shoot, we went back into the studio for the more conceptual shots. We had a few ideas kicking around, but one of the most poignant was putting a derogatory term on a piece of tape and placing it on her mouth - thereby showing she had been branded and silenced by the media, but still has the strength to be herself - showing she doesnt even need words to fight back. Which I feel is one of the most powerful shots from the shoot.
We also wanted to poke fun at the media claiming "Keith has a SEX CHANGE!" so I had Melissa run out to grab scissors - and had Mina hold them in a way where they would be strategically placed... THERE... as if it was going to get cut off - sort of a middle finger to the media who muckraked on this issue.
Another of the more powerful shots - I had Mina write the definition of transphobia on paper and hold it up so its very prominent in the image, as well as some different things on her hands and hold them out.
This was one of the most important (to me) shoots I've done in my career. Saying this shoot was an honor and privilege would be a gross understatement. It was SUCH an honor getting to work with someone who just radiates inner beauty, strength, and has such a strong grasp on the journey of life, she will no doubt empower many, just by being who she is. Truly one of the most beautiful people on earth in every way.
UPDATE: Mina and I have put together a collection of limited edition hand signed (by Mina) prints! there are only 14 of each and will go quickly!
you can check them out at jeremysaffer.bigcartel.com (look in the prints section)
HERE is the GOT MONSTERS video - please watch it - its beautiful.