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Subversive By Nature – A Character Study With Jacob O’Brian

Portraits , June 6, 2017

When I was Jacob’s age, times were more simple.  The boys were boys, the girls were girls..

Haha, not really; but times have changed.  The dialogue around whether gays deserved access to the hetero right to marry came and went.  The left won that battle in the culture war relatively quickly in Canada, and sights quickly turned to rights for the transgendered/transsexual community.  The dialogue and debate was evolving around much of the world as well.  A vocabulary has developed and begun to seep into the mainstream vernacular: gender fluid, gender queer, trans, trans normative, ally, binary gender system, cis, heteronormative, ftm, mtf, gender variant, ze, passing, transitioning.

As a straight/cis, male, white fellow, I’ve been able to watch the cultural transformation take hold and evolve in the collective consciousness as an outside observer.  I’ve been encouraged that society is becoming more open, compassionate, and diverse.  A cold mechanistic binary system is slowly but certainly being consumed by one which is spectral and organically diverse.  I’ve always been intrigued by queer culture.  I should re-phrase that.  I’ve always been intrigued by counter-culture.  By choice I’ve felt an attraction to human culture that embraces progressive momentum and ruptures in the status-quo.  How nice that I can choose such an interest.

Others are born that way.

I knew as soon as I stumbled upon Jacob’s Instagram feed (@artsy_or_shit), that this was an individual who had to end up in front of my camera.  Jacob is graduating high school and will attend the Nova Scotia Academy of Art And Design in September.  Jacob also knows more about makeup than most women I know.  His pictures reflect more than good contouring and blending though.  Jacob can somehow communicate a mood or even an emotion through various makeup/clothing combinations or “costumes”.  When we met up to discuss the shoot, Jacob described them to me as personas, and could articulate at least five specific personas.  Each persona had a unique title, mood, aesthetic and energy.  We captured two of them in our first shoot, including the “90’s Heroin Chic” persona, set in an underground parking garage in Antigonish, NS.

I’ll let Jacob introduce himself properly.  In his own words:

Fashion, art, pop culture.  These guide and influence me on my journey through self expression in the world.  Born a French-Canadian in Moncton, New Brunswick, and growing up in Antigonish, I’ve always known I fit somewhere between the designated gender roles and boundaries of expression.  Breaking the mold of my surroundings, continues to be a challenge and a reward.  I know that so many of our gender roles are completely constructed and I like to challenge people’s own perception of femininity and masculinity through aesthetics, usually with a pinch of humor, drama and fun.

For years I’ve been deeply interested in many facets of art, from cinema to fashion design and painting, and I find myself frequently inspired to give back to the world via my creativity. I’ve long felt I have too much to say for just my mouth to handle, so through my style and appearance I like to show off what influences me and what I live for. My imagination best spirals around dramatic female archetypes.  Since I was little I’ve felt women get to have more fun in the fashion world, from their clothes to their hair to their accessories and makeup. So many carefully designed female personas exist within my brain, I let these eccentric personalities out through what I wear, how I talk, and my visual arts on a daily basis, it’s why I wake up in the morning and what I live for. I know I’m not always moved by the ordinary, I like the gritty, the unexpected, the strange and queer.  I fit into counter culture not by choice but by nature and I love it. I yearn to make as much of an impact on the world of style and liberty of self expression as possible, thankfully I’ve been surrounded by supportive people my whole life who make me feel safe to be my individual self.

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