Go ahead, photograph my butt.
Those are some of the words I might have said to Loren during the first photo shoot we did together. I don’t remember exactly, the day was such a blur (and it was seven years ago!) See, Loren was photographing me in my skivvies for a gift for Guy, who would propose to me and turn 30 in the same year, which seemed like an appropriate time to give him some boudoir photos.
I was nervous to be photographed in my underwear. I think this is a fairly common disposition, because they provided champagne to lighten the mood, and played music of my choosing to help me settle. This is some kind of metaphor for our ongoing dynamic: Loren always seems to know what to do to raise my comfort level. They are the kind of person who makes you feel special, and gorgeous, and I honestly don’t know how they do it.
Welcome again to my Humans of Interest feature! Today, I’m going to tell you about Loren, who makes a living out of art, and inspires me on the daily.
I’ve known Loren for seven years, and counting. We went to the same high school, but we didn’t really run in the same circles, and we only had a few acquaintances in common. That being said, it was through one of these acquaintances that I heard about Loren’s photography business, when I decided to do a boudoir shoot for Guy. I felt better about getting half-naked photos from someone who was vetted, which is initially why I reached out to them.
Our first pre-shoot meeting was supposed to run for 30 minutes, but we spent closer to two hours chatting about high school, photography, art, relationships, music, fashion, and a hundred other things. I learned that they are very tall (notably so), vegan (in their own life and in their business practices), an identical twin, and passionate about everything (otherwise, why bother, right?) I connected with Loren immediately, and felt energized by their joie de vivre, something that has persisted throughout the years. I love to laugh, and Loren makes me laugh.
Loren is not just a damn fine photographer, though I can’t say enough wonderful things about the albums they’ve made for me. Among many things, they’re also a wedding planner and coordinator (check out Fuck Yeah Weddings), an artist in other media, and parent to a curly-haired sunbeam of a kiddo. They actively speak out against patriarchal systems that power our country, and in favor of the love that everyone has the capacity to share with others. They aggressively flaunt the label “feminist” and have no patience for foolishness. I regularly take notes.
Have I mentioned that my friends are basically famous? Except for the fact that a photog’s job is to be behind the camera, you could have seen Loren around June of this year, when Elysian Brewing teamed up with Queer Eye (specifically host Jonathan Van Ness) to host a big queer wedding here in Seattle for Pride. Loren was one of the photographers for the event, and you should have seen the sequined fanny pack that they wore! Loren is living their very best life right now, which is the most inspiring thing to witness, and that authenticity is one of the things I admire most about them. Loren is here to remind me, and you, and everyone, that the most glorious thing you can do is to live your truth.
Loren has offered an outstanding example of how to embrace my (and others’) sexuality and gender identity (which are not the same thing, just a side note.) It’s worth mentioning that, when I first met Loren, they used she/her pronouns, and one thing we had in common were our heterosexual relationships. Today, in case you haven’t noticed (it would be so nice if that were the case), I’ve been using they/them pronouns for Loren, and their relationship is considerably more queer than it used to be. For the record, I say queer to mean, not within a binary, not as a synonym for lesbian.
Loren was the first of my friends to start using they/them for their kiddo. It was a switch from the “he” they used shortly after birth, and I won’t lie, it was a struggle at first to remember the change. Loren helped by aggressively using their babe’s neutral pronouns, and forcing my tiny mind to adapt. Thanks to Loren, I stopped to think about the ways in which I assigned gender to infants and toddlers in my work teaching swim lessons; this reflection led to me removing almost all pronouns from my teaching vocabulary, including in the songs (which was confusing for some parents, because I was the only instructor, I think, who did this.) When Loren recently declared for they/them for themself, it wasn’t as challenging to update my brain files (and that’s why representation matters, y’all.)
Last week Loren invited me to join their Queer Brunch group. This might not sound groundbreaking, but let me explain why it was for me. I am a bisexual cisgendered woman (monogamously married to a man) and this is an identity I’ve only embraced with those words for about three years now. I’m 36, friends. That means I spent roughly 20 years operating under the assumption that I am heterosexual, which it turns out I am not (did you know that some cis women look at other cis women’s bodies and think, nah, not for me? It may sound stupid, but this is only a realization I had a few years ago, and then a lot of other things started to make sense, like how I’ve had a thing for Selma Hayek since I saw her in Fools Rush In.)
I say all this to try to explain how, despite being queer, I still don’t feel like I pass for queer; I don’t feel queer “enough” most of the time, and I still tend to exclude myself when thinking about “the LGBT+ community.” To have Loren accept and acknowledge me as my bisexual self, with something as simple as a Facebook brunch group, was incredibly validating.
Basically, Loren is here to validate you. They’re here to say, “YES! I love it! I love you!” and be completely genuine about it. They don’t pretend that life is peachy keen all the time, but they honor and embrace the things about life that are. That is why, when I think of Loren, I think of beauty, and I am grateful to have such a beautiful friend.
Featured image of Loren used with permission.