French-Canadian photographer Laurence Philomene is the kind of 23-year-old that leaves us quaking with admiration; they’ve shot for brands from Teen Vogue to Netflix, but as an artist, have managed to carve out their own aesthetic and stay true to it. Despite a penchant for super-bold block colors, Philomene’s portraiture work has a distinct sensitivity to it, something that comes from making friends with their subjects and allowing them to decide how they’d like to be depicted.
Philomene identifies as non-binary, and their latest series features people who also define their gender this way. Non-Binary is an ongoing project Philomene has been shooting since last year, and it’s making waves across the internet for capturing the nuances of gender expression with extreme intimacy.
“I’ve been taking photos for about 10 years,” Philomene tells me. “I started out taking photos of these Japanese collectible dolls called Blythe dolls. There’s a whole community of people on Flickr who put them in scenarios and take photos of them. That’s how I got my start. Then I went to college for photography after high school and after that I guess I didn’t have a choice about whether to make a career out of it… I’ve been working freelance for four years now.”
Gender is a theme Philomene started experimenting with in college; it felt important to explore it in their photography work as part of an exploration of their own gender identity. “A lot of my work has been about themes of masculinity and femininity — putting that in my photography and trying to figure what it means for me,” Philomene explains, before adding: “I don’t think I’ve come to any conclusions yet, which is probably why I’m still working on it…”
Ahead, we take a look at Laurence’s project photographing non-binary identified people, and discuss how Laurence and their subjects express their gender — both privately and in front of the camera.