Photographer Roger Moenks asks NuAuthentic readers to love people for who they are
Roger Moenks has seen a thing or two — mostly through the lens of his camera. As a New York City-based photographer who has worked with celebrities and activists, he has worked with people from all walks of life.
Inspired by a partnership with curator Shelly Brown, Moenks has shot 100 stunning photos of genderfluid and transgender individuals in an homage to beauty unconfined by labels. The photographs, collected in a book called “The NuAuthentic,” include portraits of Cory Wade, Susanne Bartsch and other gender non-conforming beauty icons.
Here is what Moenks had to say about the project, the art of photography and the gender revolution.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO WORK ON “THE NUAUTHENTIC?”
As a photographer, I love books. I love projects. This is my fifth book, and in recent years, I have been observing a shift in how people like to express themselves, how they see themselves, how they make us see them. I applaud it.
New York is the place where people dress the way they want, showcase themselves the way they want to be seen, go after their dreams the way they feel comfortable about it. There’s an authenticity and a uniqueness in New York that you can’t find anywhere else.
HOW DO YOU THINK PERCEPTION OF GENDER HAS CHANGED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS?
The perception is slowly changing in the Western world. People are more tolerant, and younger generations do not want to be boxed into a norm. “Accept me as I am” is the mandate. We have no right to tell people how they want to express themselves nor should we hold back on their creativity and essence of their soul.
WHAT WAS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF THIS PROJECT? THE MOST CHALLENGING?
The most rewarding part was meeting and getting to know some the subjects, making them feel beautiful and making them see who they really are.
I am grateful to my partner Andrew Barile, who has worked with me in putting the idea together, and grateful to have met Shelly Brown, who has curated the project. We formed a wonderful bond and friendship working on this project together. Shelly’s sister, who had transitioned, passed a couple of years ago. This project brought her closer together to the people her sister loved in her life. You realize how precious life is and how we need to cherish every moment.
HOW DOES YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY IN THIS PROJECT HELP CHALLENGE GENDER NORMS & STEREOTYPES?
Everyone has gone through their own personal crusade to be able to express themselves truly in this moment. In this book, I want to celebrate them in a way that unmasks how authentically beautiful they are. I want everyone to know that there are people out there who thrive on progress, people who showcase themselves and their own originality in remarkable ways.
They are our new freedom fighters, fighting for everyone’s right to express their unique beauty. It’s important to document, to celebrate these people who contribute to our collective imagination. My intention in these photographs is not to show their physicality or their sexuality but to uncover their deeper beauty.
There is a wave of gender fluidity and acceptance rising. Yet with this tide of change, there is a growing resistance and denial of transgender identity. When trans people are denied correct identifying documents, this prevents them participating in fundamental aspects of daily life, like enrolling in school, accessing health care, getting a job, opening a bank account, traveling or voting. When they are mis-gendered or subjected to transphobic remarks or actions, it can have devastating and lasting effects on their psyche.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC PROCESS? HOW DO YOU EVEN BEGIN TO DISTILL SOMEONE AND THEIR STORY INTO A SINGLE IMAGE OR SET OF IMAGES?
This is a real good question, and I think to understand this process, you have to understand photography. It allows you to capture the angle that has much to do with your revealing the person’s journey. This is why I love photography and perfecting the capturing of expressions: the essence of the image comes with experience.
YOU’VE WORKED WITH A LOT OF HIGH-PROFILE INDIVIDUALS; IS THERE ANYONE WHO STICKS IN YOUR MIND AS A GREAT SUBJECT?
I have spent much time with Paris and Nicky Hilton when we were shooting for two years various campaigns and magazine covers. I have also photographed over 90 society women around the world in their homes, such as Delphine Arnault, Roberta Armani, etc.
I’ve also been documenting 53 environmentalists to give us their point of view on how to make this world more sustainable, like Jane Goodall, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg and Stella McCartney, to name a few.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL VACATION?
Swimming in crystal blue water.
ARE YOU A MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT PERSON?
I used to be a night person 100% but mostly because I have always been so excited to do things, meet people and be social. Now, I am more a day person. Depending on time of the year, I also love waking up in the early morning and just enjoying the weather and the silence of the A.M.
FAVORITE MUSEUM TO VISIT?
I love the Louvre.