Queering labels: Review of photobook “Butch”

Cover of Kanithea Powell's photobook "Butch."

Cover of Kanithea Powell’s photobook “Butch.”

Tagg Magazine

The definition of the term butch is an often-contested word within the LBTQ community. Kanithea Powell, the author of the photo book “Butch,” believes there is a butch spectrum. Powell and her photographer, Alford, photographed fourteen models (most of whom identify as LBTQ) in the span of two days. Powell notes that she let “everyone bring a little bit of their own flavor to the set.” It was the photographic medium that enabled her to “challenge what ‘butch’ really means” (11). The resulting photographic product, “Butch,” includes over 100 photographs of (wo)men split into four sections (i) Bois, (ii) Suits, (iii) Just the two of us, and (iv) Never judge a butch by her cover.

Seeking to open the identity box that often confines, Powell is a woman who steers clear of labels, she identifies as a woman who loves women. Similarly, she hopes her book, “Butch”, expands and/or queers the stereotypical meanings of butch. She writes, “We are all apart of each other – (wo)man, female-blended perfectly together creating one complete being.” Rather than offering a ‘butch’ spectrum, however, most of the models appear to hold similar levels of feminine and masculine traits, leaving the viewer hungry for more. Where was the stone butch? Powell’s intentions are genuine and heartfelt, but each woman seems to be contained and constructed by Powell’s words and her own subjective understanding of what makes a (wo)man ‘butch.’ Powell can offer her perspective (and Alford’s beautiful photography), but a (wo)man’s identity is individual and unique.

Read more at TaggMagazine.com

Tagg Magazine is a print and online resource for LBT women in the DC Metropolitan and Rehoboth, DE areas.

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