How I Got That Shot: Identity

Identity in b&w. WAD2007. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Identity. World AIDS Day 2007. And how I met celebrity host, actor, and advocate, Ron B

It’s October, a very busy month for many reasons–LGBTQ+ History Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, PDN Photo Expo in NYC, and celebrating celebrity host, actor, and advocate (and wonderful friend) Ron B and her show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. And so, in this post I turned to a #tbt image, an image I captured many years ago at an event where I met Ron B in the first place.

In 2007, while covering a World AIDS Day event, I ended up capturing an image I later called “Identity.” Luckily for me, “Identity” ended up being part of two Fresh Fruit Festival art shows [Strike A Pose – Gender ID (2008) and Crossing Boundaries (2010)] at Leslie-Lohman Museum, in New York City.

In an “express yourself” kind of way, “Identity” crosses boundaries, while striking a pose. “Identity” is about finding one’s true…identity, and also about smiling through tears (after all, I took the image on World AIDS Day), about courage, as well as the passion and determination to make a difference.

For those who might wonder about the story behind this image….

Identity. Photo by Alina Oswald. As part of Fresh Fruit shows at Leslie-Lohman Museum.
“Identity” photo by Alina Oswald.

As I mentioned, I photographed this while capturing a World AIDS Day event, back in 2007…I believe it was taking place in a church cafeteria. The room was full of tables and chairs, with aisles in between. There was a stage, too, but many performers would move around, some of them even engaging with the audience.

[A Note: When covering these kinds of performances, as photographers we often end up constantly looking at the scene through our lens. That, in turn, can distort the…perception of distance between photographer and subject, especially when the subject (the performer) is constantly moving. Therefore, every so often when photographing, it would be a good idea to look around with the naked eye, not through the lens, to avoid unwanted collisions.]

Identity in b&w. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Identity. Photographed at World AIDS Day 2007 event. Identity was featured in Fresh Fruit Festivals at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in NYC.

So, as I was saying, I was photographing away when this performer showed up on stage, dressed, head to toe, half as man and half as woman, including makeup…a striking appearance to say the least, and, as it turned out, a memorable performance.

I kept photographing as the performance went on, but at the time I did not notice anything else but the clothes and performance. It was only when I got home and started browsing through my images that I noticed the shape of the tongue. A few years later, when searching for an image to submit to the Leslie-Lohman Museum’s (then) annual Fresh Fruit Festival, “Identity” came to mind.

It was at this particular WAD 2007 event that I met celebrity host, actor, LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS advocate, and now a friend for many years, Ron B.

Also, only a few months later, in early 2008, I got to interview Ron B for the first time. Since then I’ve had the chance to interview and photograph her several times, and also I’ve become a frequent guest on her show, No Boundaries: Up Close and Personal to join a panel and talk about things like marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, women empowerment, HIV and AIDS, and many others. In October, No Boundaries guests get to celebrate the show, and its host, Ron B.

So, thank you, Ron B, for everything, and, as always, thank you all for stopping by,

Alina Oswald

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