Laurence Philomène – Puberty

Review by  Gerhard Clausing

Puberty and coming of age—a time to look inward as one reaches out to the world. We are not all the same, and in accepting and welcoming various different orientations, we may reach some levels of discomfort as we reexamine old stereotypes and preconceived categories into which we previously may have thought people would neatly fit. Some individuals just cannot easily be compartmentalized as belonging to a single category; if deep inside they feel diverse in their gender orientation, they encompass both maleness and femaleness, in various proportions, and therefore are non-binary.

So it is with this refreshingly direct and creatively presented new photobook by Laurence Philomène, also known as Larry, in which we share a special journey over a period of three years. Larry, who identifies as trans, queer, and non-binary, provides many details about various developments and moments that took place during that time. We are privileged find out about a myriad of personal feelings, the process of supplementary testosterone shots, some trips, and we also get to know a group of friends, who function as a very important support group.

The presentation is marked by a very holistic approach. Larry shows an extraordinary openness in sharing these stages of further development. One can consider the journey a furthering of the process of puberty, or a coming-of-age story of a special kind. Larry’s use of handwritten notes (in the manner of Duane Michals) throughout the book, as well as often over-the-top colors and very graphic photographic compositions, serve the narrative extremely well. There is also a dream-like, folk-narrative quality to the project at times.

The images are an excellent example of how to use self-portraits in a variety of ways. Larry is a keen observer of self-details, the inner child, previous illnesses, and the environment. We share trips, the relationship with the special cat companion Vashti, and much more. What makes the journey joyful and exemplary is Larry’s positive attitude and special level of motivation to share.

The imaginatively produced layout and the lively colors are responsible for holding the interest of the viewer/reader throughout the entire photobook. It should also be noted that the pandemic period was difficult for all of us, and especially for a person like Larry, searching for an expansion of self-understanding and engaged in the process of finding and expanding their self-definition. An interview provides us with further important details, especially also concerning the role of art as an emotional outlet.

This interesting self-narrative that allows us to experience a special journey is an extraordinary model for a courageous and extremely creative sharing of a challenging period of self-development. I urge you to take a detailed look to expand your horizon, as it is also an excellent bridge between a trans person and the audience at large that gives us a special personal view, full of important insights.

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Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.

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Laurence Philomène – Puberty

Photographer/Artist:  Laurence Philomène (born in Canada, lives in Montreal)

Publisher:  Yoffy Press, Atlanta, Georgia; © 2021

Texts:  Laurence Philomène

Language:  English

Paperback with illustrated cover; 288 pages, unpaginated; 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm); printed in the Netherlands by Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort; ISBN 978-1-949608-27-4

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Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.

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