Mariette Pathy Allen is a photographer of transgender, genderfluid, and gender variant communities, as well as other continuous series such as Birth and FamiliesThe Face of New JerseyPeople With Art, Flowers and FantasyTexas, and Scapes. In 1978, on the last day of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Allen met Vicky West, a trans woman she befriended and through whom she was first invited to Fantasia Fair, a transgender conference where she would serve as official photographer. She traveled across the US to many other transgender conferences, participated in political activism, and worked for the Transgender Tapestry magazine. She continues to pursue the work of photographing, interviewing, and advocating on behalf of gender-nonconforming people.

Allen is the author of four books that have brought visibility to transgender communities across the world including Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them (1989), The Gender Frontier (2004), TransCuba (2014), and Transcendents: Spirit Mediums in Burma and Thailand (2017). She has made dozens of slide presentations to a variety of groups, participated in radio and television programs, and been a consultant and still photographer for films. Allen’s work is included in numerous collections, both public and private, and has been exhibited internationally. Her work is being archived by Duke University's Rare Book and Manuscripts Library and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's Studies. Allen is based in New York City and is represented by CLAMP, New York

More about Mariette's career, in her own words...

Although I expected to devote my professional life to painting, after receiving an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, I took a class in photography with Harold Feinstein. The experience was exhilarating: It felt as if I were given a passport into the world. In what seemed like no time, I was hired by the State Museum of New Jersey to capture "The Face of New Jersey". The Philadelphia and NJ photographs, taken in 1968, represent my earliest work, followed by "People With Art," an ongoing series about people making art, people in juxtaposition to art or kitsch, people in art spaces, or even, people as art.

In 1978, I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. By fluke, I stayed in the same hotel as a group of crossdressers who invited me to join them for breakfast on the last morning. When I took a group picture, I was moved by the experience of looking into the eyes of one of the people in the group: I felt as if I was looking at the essence of a human being rather than a man or a woman. From 1978 through the '80s, I photographed and interviewed male-to-female crossdressers with their families, culminating in the publication of "Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them", and an exhibition at the Simon Lowinsky Gallery in 1990.

In the '90s, I expanded my work to focus on female-to-male and male-to-female people who live in the gender in which they identify. My second book "The Gender Frontier" is a collection of photographs, interviews, and essays covering political activism, youth, and the range of people that identify as transgender in mainland USA. The photographs were taken between 1992 and 2003 and were published by Kehrer, Heidelberg, Germany. “The Gender Frontier” won the 2004 Lambda Literary Award in the Transgender/Genderqueer category.

Since the publication of “The Gender Frontier”, I have continued my work with gender variance, both in the US and abroad. “TransCuba has just been published. I anticipate following this publication with new images taken in Mexico, French Polynesia, Myanmar, and Thailand, in collaboration with professor Eli Coleman, at the University of Minnesota. Along with my focus on gender variance, I have enjoyed playing with flowers and creating fantasies; both of these series relate to my background as a painter. “Scapes”, a new series, deals with color, space, and cultural juxtapositions such as east and west, old and new, handmade and manufactured. I see this series as related to painting and collage as well.

Along with exhibitions and books, I give slide presentations on gender issues and consult for documentary films. In 1998 I worked with Kate Davis and David Heilbroner on a film for A&E television: "The Transgender Revolution". It was the first documentary to emphasize political issues along with personal stories. It was nominated for a GLAAD media award.

"Southern Comfort", Kate Davis's next film, for which I was the consultant and still photographer, won the 2001 Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize in documentary film. It documents the last year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual who was dying of ovarian cancer. "The Gender Frontier" includes images taken over many years of the people featured in "Southern Comfort".

My work is in a number of collections, both private and institutional, and has been exhibited internationally.

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