Sexual Evolution tackles the complex question of female identity, sexuality and self-fashioning. The women of Sexual Evolution take us beyond archetypes and challenge fixed notions of gender and sexual expression. The result is a suite of portraits that display the unending range of what it means to be a woman. On first view many of these subjects seem to embody an archetype that persists vividly in Western imaginary, but looking closer they are upended by some conflicting quality that makes thesewomen more human than meets the eye. Shown together, the photos in Sexual Evolution comprisea beautifully heterogeneous panorama that represents not only New York City's native diversity, where these works were made, but the fluid contours of modern female identity on a universal scale. The process to represent these subjects was an investigative one beginning with lengthy interviews on the topics of sexuality and gender definition. Based on the interview, an individual style was created for each shoot, telling the story of that unique woman. Many subjects share the names of theirsexual partners on their skin, turning their story inside out, proudly and courageously sharing the evolution oftheir sexuality. Despite their alluring carnality, the result is much more than skin deep. Executed withgreat candor and intention, the subjects are shot dead-on so as to confront the viewer. Along withexcerpts from the interviews, Sexual Evolution challenges society's perceptions of "proper"female sexual behavior.
*These and other images from Sexual Evolution available upon request.
I come from a traditional background.
My parents are normal heterosexual people.
My dad was a preacher.
I went to a religious school learning sex was bad. It could
kill you, just don't do it. Don't even look at people of the
opposite sex because then you're sinning. If religious
people hadn't put it in my head, I might not have thought
it in the first place.
I was precocious. But I was also very innocent about it.
People were calling me a slut when I was still a virgin.
To be told sex was bad and my feelings would send me to
hell really messed with me. I don't think sexuality is a
decision you make. I think it's a decision made for you
before you're born.
In our culture women are presented as sex symbols.
They always say Marilyn Monroe, or Barbie.
I think when I wake up I'm a 4. I'm a white girl with
platinum eyebrows. I would never say I'm more than an 8.
If Precious is a 1, and Marilyn Monroe is a 10, I don't
think anyone can say they're a 10.
No one is Marilyn Monroe.
I didn't have any goals or anything to become who I am
now. It was just in my cards, I guess. I came to NY and I
tried to do nails, but didn't make enough money. My
roommate at the time was a dominatrix. She would say
you could do this if you want to make money. You don't
have to have sex with the clients. I did it and it was
completely not like me.
Then I went to a nightclub, and by then I dressed very
fetishy, and already had that blonde bombshell look. I
did the ass and the lips bigger and wanted more of a sexy
look. I spent a lot of time alone as a child, I didn't want to
look like the people around me because they made fun
of me. That's probably why I look like I'm from a different
decade. I would watch old movies,
Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.
I do think I'm a role model especially for younger
transsexuals and people who are transitioning, and gay
people, and women. I think people that are different, and
don't want to be what their parents want them to be. I was
flamboyant about who I was, and it changed the ideas of
transsexuals that they are proud and more honest about
who they really are. I symbolize change... and success by
The way I see it is I was born this way, like sexual
orientation. I remember being 3, having Ken tie up Barbie.
As a teenager I remember fantasizing about being tied up.
And then I found the internet.
I started actively seeking it out, going on fetish websites.
I made up for lost time.
Thanks to the web I learned all about BDSM in high school.
Now the scene I'm in a sex or fetish party, is
ridiculously safe. You have a safe word. Like "dishwasher".
If you say that, it means that's really too much.
It's a polyamorous community.
Everyone can have sex with whoever they want.
Even if they're in a relationship.
I'd go to orgies once a week.
There's choking, caning ... That's what they use to torture
people. That's like the worst, or the best thing ever.
A while ago I thought free love ...
Now I realize polyamorous is just another way of saying
I was hurt before and I can't commit fully.
I want a monogamous heterosexual relationship.
I'm an artist.
I just thought it would be cool to do it this way.
I get my clients from the web mostly. I don't know.
You can really get creative.
I have a problem with attracting codependent people and
losers. Maybe it has to do with my own issues.
I don't know. I'm very maternal. So I attract needy types.
My first mom was an IV drug user.
We only ate candy and never wore clothes.
I do worry about the crazy on my moms' side of the family.
Then I was raised in a really strict religious background.
With my dad's third wife he got tattoos and we had no
rules. Now he wants his tattoos removed and he doesn't
like mine. And I'm like really? What were you expecting?
I thought it would be cool to just write piggy everywhere.
I write that next to each of my client's names in my phone.
Because if the average man is a dog ...
These guys are pigs.
I grew up in Las Vegas. I'm the oldest of 11 kids.
My mom had me and my sister then married my dad and
had nine more. They are very severely Roman Catholic.
There are very clear gender roles.
It's my role as a woman to make my man feel appreciated.
I'm an ideal lover really. I can be the power behind the
man, and be that doey damsel in distress.
I moved to New York with nothing but ten dollars and a bag
full of dreams. I got a job in a cafe and I slept there too.
I went crazy that year. Now I have a kid.
I'm trying to be the best I can and be with her all the time
when I'm not working. I'm booking real jobs now.
I want to be a real model. I want to be the Best.
If I come to my full splendor, I'll be unstoppable.
I could be the queen of NYC if I could just grow into my full
I've been back and forth between here and Senegal all my
life. In Senegal we're religious, so talking about sex is
taboo. But behind closed doors I'm pretty sure they do it
a lot more.
Soutourra is when someone older than you ...
you can't confront them.
Even if they did something to you.
So that's in me, and I just feel like I have to keep quiet.
It's a pattern, different men.
It makes me think twice, do I attract the abuser?
If it were up to me, I would be very free and sex, sex, sex.
But because of all of this other stuff, I just can't.
I hope I can be with someone who I can really be with.
Not that I want multiple partners, but one person
I can feel really comfortable with.
My first time was when I was raped when I was 13,
Like most women in Russia
With men I always run away.
I can’t settle down. I’m too immature. I’m a punk.
I don’t like to get attached.
My parents just want me to get married, so I left Russia.
Greenpoint is full of people who call themselves artists.
I like ambitious artists.
Creative, young, with high potential.
Really important for a person to be intellectual and artistic.
There are two types of hipsters.
High end, and not success oriented.
I can’t be that dirty.
And I like expensive clothes.
It’s all about aesthetics.
My mom's a hustler, she's a baller. Jay Z on steroids. She's
a walking sex object. Everything I am is because of her.
But she was very protective. Her children are her world.
I've always fed off attention from men. I was a little hussy.
I'm a sick fuck. It's very American thinking, if you're a
confident sexy woman, you're a slut or a whore. I just liked
having sex. I don't feel bad, still.
I'm an exaggeration of a woman. I'm a very dramatic
person. I love hard, I fight hard. I just want to make
everything better instantly. I never got addicted to
drugs. I would just do them, then I wouldn't. I'm like a
terrible case study of experimenting with life.
My favorite author is Isabelle Allende. She's a feminist.
I walk down the street with my head held high, as a mirror
for other women to feel good about who they are.
I've always been a connector.
The gay world with the straight world with the artists.
I just want to connect people and have everyone love each
other. I've lived many great lives, and this life is for other
Growing up, there was no display of affection around me.
I'm the same. Holding a hand is scarier to me than having
sex. Because then it means I like them, and it's me being
Before I was trying to find myself through a guy.
Now I feel like I can really be myself.
I was looking to a guy for confirmation.
The main reason is because I wasn't happy, and that
was the energy I was putting out there.
I knew it was hurting me but I kept doing it.
I wanted to feel something. Now I trust my own voice.
I treat myself well, so I demand respect.
I'm really picky and I know what I want.
And I'm not going to be with someone I know isn't right.
I've always seen sex as natural.
It doesn't have to be emotional.
Everyone always says you think more like a guy.
All the girls were like oh my god, my first time ...
And I was like, it's just a physical expression.
When I'm in love I give everything.
It's so deep. I love love.
Shortly after my sixteenth birthday I lost my virginity.
One night I decided (with physic pressure from him in a
dead silent conversation) to release my limbs ...Three
days later I found him fooling around with my fourteen
year old sister. I grabbed a pizza napkin and wrote down
the manifesto I still remember to this day that I would
eventually read aloud when he opened the door, and got
shot a couple times with pepto bismol pink paint balls.
It went like this: You've had one sister and her other sister
too I have a little brother; would a little brother do? My
fathers a painter, he paints real nice, he ain't too saucy
and he ain't Jesus Christ. But with his cock up your ass
he'll teach you some advice. Stay away from Stella,
you've gone too far and if you keep on going you'll be
fucking my cigar!
My lovers have come out of serendipitous encounter. As if
they were meant to arrive in that particular chapter. I've
found that there are no coincidences; there is some divine
alignment written, and the other half is one's own
motivation and will.
Everything started for me at 18 when I moved out.
My first kiss. My first time for everything.
He proposed when he took me to Switzerland and Italy.
I started crying. I am way too young. I want to finish law
school. I got back to Russia, and I was experimenting.
First drugs, first one night stand, first girl, first threesome.
Sexuality I started doubting young.
I used to have dreams I was a man.
In my dreams, I'm tall with big shoulders and black hair.
I was into literature. I like words.
My favorite book about a boy in split personality.
School for Fools. About Soviet environment.
No way to escape with his creative personality.
We grew up behind the Iron Curtain.
I would cry listening to Madonna.
Knowing it was a culture I could never know.
To come to US is an escape.
I realize you can find your soulmate in
different country, with different backgrounds.
I remember always feeling like a woman.
Everyone thought I was a girl as a child.
My father was a jock. My mom was very fashionable.
There was a person who did the windows where she
shopped who was transsexual. I said, "That's me!"
She guided me on what I needed to do.
My parents were totally supportive.
I don't identify at all as a man. I am a woman - that's it.
At 18 I had my surgery. Just outside South Africa in
Swaziland. The doctor had his license revoked in South
Africa because he was performing abortions, which were
then illegal. My parents supported it and paid for it, but I
went alone. After I woke up, I felt downstairs and there
was nothing ... and I was like ... "Fabulous!"
I never really wanted kids. All my money goes to Hermes.
I always felt comfortable with who I was.
When I told my parents they were in shock.
I'm surprised no one knew.
Probably because of how I grew up on Long Island.
They wanted me to meet a nice Jewish guy.
I was an artist, and liked hanging out with the weirdos.
In college I knew it was time to accept myself.
I'm such a passionate person, but I never felt it
towards love or guys.
I came out to my parents.
I felt like a liar and wanted to share with my family.
My parents freaked out.
I paint. I always drew women's bodies since I'm 16.
I painted my whole sex life.
Everyone saw it and had to get on board.
I think it's so incredible to be a woman.
Being a woman starts much deeper. It's a state of
knowing, being confident. Far too many women in the
world have no idea of the power they possess.
The earth is a woman, Mother Nature, the moon,
and all those fancy yachts, they're all female.
The power of a woman is our ability to nurture, to educate,
to give life, which we can do without a man.
I had to learn how to acknowledge my power.
Very early on it was completely suppressed.
It's amazing how one rogue act can influence your whole
path. Thank god I'm smart enough to know I'm bigger and
stronger than that.
As I get older, I've given myself the permission to be sexy.
I'm moving on to the unapologetic stage of it.
"What other people think about me is none of my business"
TESS & IVY
T: I see myself most sincerely as female. That does not
mean that I see myself as girly or cute - I am neither of
I: I always was a tomboy growing up but I think as I get
older, I aim to be more feminine.
T: I have been dating the same guy for over two years -
Sometimes I think I would have actually stayed a lesbian
had it not been for "her." That said, I am not straight now.
I love who I love.
I: I wish that new love I want to rip
your clothes off passion would last forever.
T: In the end of the day ...the reasons why people get into
relationships, for the comfort of having someone there,
the emotional support, I was born with that person.
I: Being born with another half can really get in the way of
a relationship. The partner has to learn that you will kind of
be dating two people. This is the struggle that I see people
go through of "but I'm all alone, who will fill that void?"
That's what people want out of intimacy: this guarantee
of not being alone. I already have that covered.