French-Canadian photographer Laurence Philomene is the kind of 23-year-old that leaves us quaking with admiration; they’ve shot for brands from Teen Vogue through to Netflix, but as an artist, have managed to carve out their own aesthetic and stay true to it. Despite a penchant for super-bold block colours, Laurence’s portraiture work has a distinct sensitivity to it, something that comes from making friends with their subjects and allowing them to decide how they’d like to be depicted.
Laurence identifies as non-binary, and their latest series features people who also define their gender this way. Non-Binary is an ongoing project Laurence has been shooting since last year and it’s making waves across the internet for capturing the nuances of gender expression with extreme intimacy. When I call Laurence to talk about the series, they’re friendly as hell despite being a bit distracted, after a week in Berlin setting up a solo show. When we speak, Laurence is on Brighton Pier hanging with friends, on holiday from their native city, Montreal.
“I’ve been taking photos for about 10 years,” they explain down the line. “I started out taking photos of these Japanese collectible dolls called Blythe dolls. There’s a whole community of people on Flickr who put them in scenarios and take photos of them. That’s how I got my start. Then I went to college for photography after high school and after that I guess I didn’t have a choice about whether to make a career out of it… I’ve been working freelance for four years now.”
Gender is a theme Laurence started experimenting with in college; it felt important to explore it in their photography work as part of an exploration of their own gender identity. “A lot of my work has been about themes of masculinity and femininity – putting that in my photography and trying to figure what it means for me,” Laurence explains, before adding: “I don’t think I’ve come to any conclusions yet, which is probably why I’m still working on it…”
Ahead, we take a look at Laurence’s project photographing non-binary identified people, and discuss how Laurence and their subjects express their gender – both privately and in front of the camera.