8 Intimate Portraits That Seriously Blur Gender Lines

Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
At first glance, it's difficult to label model Seth Atwell. And that's the point. Self-identification isn't supposed to fall into one category or another. Rather, it's meant to express how we feel and see ourselves in the simplest sense.

Atwell is an androgynous, gender-fluid star on the rise who has modeled for both men's and women's clothing labels. Most recently, Atwell walked in the Hood by Air show at New York Fashion Week, leaving showgoers to admire the incredible mix of masculine-meets-feminine physicality.

Intrigued by Atwell's ambiguity, photographer Gabrielle Revere, who specializes in intimate portraits, sought to capture Atwell's true essence: that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. What she produced was a series, shot at Atwell's home in Toronto that are not just incredibly striking, but add to a larger cultural conversation surrounding sex, gender, and the unrealistic beauty expectations set by society.

Ahead, Revere opens up about blurring these lines — and how Atwell is just the person to do it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
Tell me about how this project came about.
"Seth’s agent had approached me and was very familiar my style of reportage, which has really become a strong identity in my work. It’s a very intimate and personal way of seeing an individual as an individual, and I think it is compelling to people because there is an honesty and a rawness to it. I think, especially in the past couple of years, reality needs to come back into the picture in the fashion industry — and really, our culture, too."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
What was it like meeting for the first time?
"When I met Seth, we hit it off right away. I think what was most compelling to me about Seth was Seth's story, depth, and energy; I’ve always been very inspired by someone's story, and less their appearance. Appearance is such an objective thing. What we find and consider beautiful as an individual, or as a culture, can be very uniformed, and I think society has gotten into this pigeonhole, where you have to be either A, B, or C — and if you're not, you're not acceptable. Luckily, this is all changing. And it’s all changing now."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
"This image sets the stage for the body of work, because of who the person is and who their reflection is. It asks, 'Who do you see when you look in the mirror?'"
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
What did you learn about Seth from this series?
"Seth and I connected closely in so many ways: as an artist and as someone who has struggled with my own identity — my identity as a woman in this industry and as a working artist. And speaking with Seth, spending time with Seth, and listening to Seth's story and the passion and soul that was within this compelling individual was incredible.

"These projects — these photo essays — you can’t really plan them. I have found that if I try and search for a muse, it doesn’t happen. It’s too artificial. But when it happens and it comes to you, it’s this beautiful — literally — relationship. Because you spend intimate time with these people with no one else around, you really get to see who the person is."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
You said you were compelled by the story. Can you tell me a little bit more about Seth?
"What I found most compelling is that Seth really wanted to pursue Seth's dreams — I don’t address Seth as man or a woman, because Seth is gender fluid. Seth is Seth. And I think that’s really what this is about — that we should all be who we want to be, not who we are forced to be because of society's standards.

"That's the message that Seth is putting out there; that Seth has no fear in being who Seth is. There was something so different with Seth that I hadn’t really experienced with any model that I’ve done these projects with. There was such a purity and an innocence, a realness, and this drive where Seth knew there was a message and a story that needed to be told. And the time is right to tell it."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
"There’s freedom in being able to live your full self. With that freedom comes the removal of fear, depression, and restriction. The freedom of being who you want to be, and of being accepted in society, is huge."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
How did you decide the direction for the photographs?
"The images needed to be very real. That was so important to this whole photo essay. I traveled to Toronto; at that point, Seth was living in Toronto and bouncing from location to location, which I think a lot of models do. They travel, they’re young, they’re finding their identity, growing up, and experiencing the world. So basically, the plan was that I would show up wherever Seth was comfortable and spend as much time as possible shooting everything that was happening, from morning 'til midnight. I didn’t want there to be any limits. I didn’t want Seth to feel like there were restrictions.

"I wanted to play a bit with this idea of what defines a man and what defines a woman. Seth is exceptionally beautiful and there were times when I was spending time with Seth and looking through the camera, and there was masculinity present. And then, certain profile changes would be made, and suddenly, there was some incredible femininity."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Revere.
How do you see this contributing to a larger conversation?
"These images are helping the individual to be seen as an individual, to not be afraid to be who they are, and to not feel restricted that they have to dress a certain way, or that if they don’t look a certain way they aren’t accepted by society. Where the world is going right now is an important place; it's giving people a platform to express their true identity — and not the identity that people have told them they should be their whole life. Instead, it’s who they truly feel that they are."

"Hopefully, at this moment in the world, in the industry, it will send out the message that beauty is beauty. Beauty is what inspires the individual — it shouldn't be about a trend, what height you are, what weight you are, what color your hair is, or what nationality you are. Instead, we should be looking more closely at the beauty of the individual. People struggle with these issues a lot, but nobody talks about it, because there’s embarrassment in struggle. No one wants be emotional or open. But empathy is what the world needs, and there’s beauty in empathy. And there’s beauty in opening people’s eyes. Today, with social media and the internet, the platform is huge, and it’s up to people like Seth to define the message."
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