'BUTCH,' Meg Allen Photo Project, Explores Female Identity And Presentation

Meg Allen is a San Francisco Bay Area photographer whose work explores the butch aesthetic, identity and the presentation of female masculinity.

What began as Allen taking portraits of her friends has stemmed into a full-fledged project called "BUTCH," and has caught the attention of major media outlets across the web.

When Allen was 18 she discovered Nothing But The Girl, a monograph published by Susie Bright and Jill Posener thats features "dykes, manly women, bulldaggers, androgeny and butches." This body of work served as a source of inspiration for Allen, who views "BUTCH" as an update 15 years later to what female masculinity looks like in the modern age -- how it differs from the Nothing But The Girl era.

In the words of Allen, "BUTCH is an adjective. And like all adjectives, it is fluid and subjective. Just as there are many types of hot women, there are many types of butches."

In order to better understand Allen's work and the forms of butch identity documented in these photographs, The Huffington Post chatted with the photographer about what inspired her to create this body of work, the individuals featured in these photographs, and her own perceptions about butch identity and presentation.


What is the concept behind BUTCH? Meg Allen: The concept behind butch is to get an inside look into the private worlds of butches. It examines how they dress, what their bodies are like, what their day to day environments look like and just gives the observer a chance to stare and take it all in. It is celebration of beauty and admiration for the butch mystique.

How did it begin? I started this project in the spring of 2013, working on my portraiture skills. I loved photography as a hobby but never thought an art career was in my grasp. I had just been laid off from a construction job and figured at that point that I had nothing to lose! I'd make my housemates sit for me while I adjusted the lighting and camera settings and realized I had a gold mine of subjects at my fingertips. I was extremely influenced by the portraits of dykes before me and decided that would be my first big project.


Who are the individuals featured in these photographs? These individuals are my friends and community. Most of them I've known for years, most of them are my closest friends. Some of the next set will be friends of friends or people I've met since showing the work, but they are all local San Francisco Bay Area residents. One lives in Boston now, but she's one my best friends and there was no way I was leaving her out.

Why did you decide to create BUTCH? I wanted see a gallery of people who looked like me in attractive portraits! Basically it came down to wanting to know what it would look like to have a magazine of butches, what would that feel like? I love Vogue and GQ and W magazines for what they are, but there's never any articles that highlight the butch aesthetic. I wanted to see Butch glamorized and I just hadn't seen that done in any huge way in the last decade or so. In the 90's, Susie Bright and Jill Posener put out this great book called Nothing But the Girl and it had a huge impact on me personally and artistically. I felt seen and proud and validated! Same thing with Catherine Opie's series "Being and Having."


Why is this work important? This work is a proud depiction of an underrepresented community. It allows access to everyone to take a closer look before dismissing someone because they don't fit the mold of "women should be feminine." Not all women are feminine and not all men are masculine, but one wouldn't always glean that connection based on mainstream media. Nor do most people have a tolerance for anything outside of the mainstream. These portraits are attractive, proud, inviting, and almost unspecific in their purpose except to say, "Here we are. We exist."

What are you trying to accomplish? Well, now I am definitely set on being an artist. There's nothing else in the world that's made me as happy as creating this. As soon as I have 117 portraits, I'm putting out a monograph. Then, it's on to the next project.

Check out the slideshow below for more images from "BUTCH" and head here for more information about Allen.