Cindy Sherman has made a career out of toying with gender and character studies. Her work is timelessly provocative, which makes it difficult for any photographic artist who produces something similar to shake off the comparisons. It's easy to see the similarities in JJ Levine's work, but his approach to gender, queerness, and the notion of costuming is a little more nuanced.
Levine's "Alone Time" essay portrays multiple models posing alone as both a man and a woman. It highlights a concept present in most of Levine's work: No one person has a singular gender. It argues that gender is merely a costume for the day, a performative act over anything else. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Levine explained how this portfolio "demonstrates that bodies and gender presentations can be malleable or subject to change without the help of airbrushing or other digital techniques to create such an optical illusion."
This kind of conversation is quickly graduating from the academic and anthropological worlds to a more zeitgeist-centric topic. What defines "boy" and what defines "girl" is not as clear as blue and pink. In fact, some have found the genderization in consumerism to be detrimental to personal development. Change, however, is coming. Facebook now recognizes the complex experiences of non-binary gender identities (which is pretty awesome). Now, thanks to artists like Levine creating work that is approachable rather than lofty, the conversation can continue to grow and evolve. Powerful stuff ahead, folks. Let's keep the dialogue in motion.