Larry Hamilton is a portrait photographer with an incredible eye. Hamilton identifies as non-binary and trans femme, and uses the they/them or she/her pronouns. They love photographing people and have a particular passion for beautiful men.
Hamilton was raised in a small suburb of Maryland, before relocating to Philadelphia for college. They moved to New York City straight after graduation ten years ago. Besides photography, they are also an actor.
‘Saying I was a gay man never quite felt honest’
When did Hamilton realize they were non-binary? And how difficult or easy was it to come out as such?
‘My gender experience has been, and continues to be, a bit of a journey,’ they tell GSN.
‘Saying I was a gay man never quite felt honest; but, I also did not feel like a trans woman. Those were the only options I knew and I didn’t have the language to describe exactly how I felt.
‘In my work as a photographer, I like to dare the person I’m shooting to tap into their most primal place, or the animal inside. It’s also where I try to connect to a role when I’m acting in a scene. It’s where your power lies.
‘I realized that the only way to be true to myself and my work was to find that place in my own life everyday which, after doing some serious soul searching led me to my truth. Openly identifying as non-binary (and more specifically trans femme) is still rather new for me.
‘I’d talked to a few close friends as I was coming to understand myself – but it wasn’t until late last year that I became more public about it. I’m very thankful for my circle, their love and support has meant the world to me. It’s kind of like the world was in black and white…and now I see colors filling in the details.
‘It’s new and exciting and sometimes scary… but I’ve never felt more alive.’
What is masculinity?
Hamilton has been doing photography for the past six years, working professionally for the past three. Portraiture is their main focus. They do private commissions and work with many models and actors.
I tell Hamilton that I was struck by the beauty of their work, and also the amazing male bodies. Given that Hamilton identifies as non-binary, to the casual viewer, the work might appear to celebrate masculinity. Would this be the wrong way to look at it?
‘There is no wrong way to view it. I definitely enjoy exploring the detail of the male physique, but I’m not limited to how it looks.
‘For bodywork, I’m mostly with models and dancers. It’s their business to keep their bodies looking a certain way – so that’s the kind of images most reflected in my book [portfolio]. One of the things I love most about photography is that it’s an extremely intimate view into the mind of the artist. It’s personal… a bit of me is also in every frame.
‘Masculinity is a tricky word because, well, what is it? What does it even mean? Some of the most attractive men I’ve met would never fit the mold of what society considers “Masculine”. I look for what draws me to each person. Sometimes it’s soft. Sometimes it’s hard.
‘Without fail, there’s something within the first ten minutes or so that sticks. A smile. The way they laugh. How comfortable they are in their skin. Their intelligence. Their sensitivity. More often than not, while they may be great, it’s about much more than just abs. I’m looking for their truth.
‘A sculpted body can be hot in the moment, but their truth and them feeling free to express themselves is what makes the shot special.’
Hamilton says he’s working on a collection that will showcase a wide range of body types.
‘Getting to shoot these shredded men has actually been a learning experience for me on many levels. I used to see these types of bodies and make judgements about them as people.
‘I’d objectify them and assume there was nothing of substance to be found. I was very wrong.
‘It’s part of what got me to thinking about the pressures that various men carry on their shoulders and how we see those men. I’d been wanting to do more nude work, because it challenges me… so a series called BARE:EXHALE was born.
‘It looks into what happens when men take off the layers of societal expectations, the pressures of “masculinity”/”femininity”, work, relationships, life, and simply take a moment to breathe. How does it feel to just let it all out? To be free? Even for just a moment. How does that look?
‘When it’s complete, it will feature a variety of male bodies: Tall, short, large, small, trans, cis, black, asian, white, you name it. Each person brings their own flavor to the mix.’
As for their plans for the future, Hamilton will continue to devote their time to both acting and photography. They’d love to make a trip to Europe to include some European men in the BARE:EXHALE project. They are currently single (‘and currently accepting applications,’ they laugh).
‘On the photography end, I’m currently looking for representation. Having an agent to help guide where I’m going seems like the right next step. I went to school for Acting, so this is a new monster for me all together.
‘On the acting side, I’ve done two presentations of new musicals here in NYC this year, A Strange Loop, by Michael R. Jackson, and Francois and the Rebels, by Jaime Cepero. The latter was a concert presentation where I played the wife of a leader of the Revolution.
‘It was the first time in a long time that I’ve felt that role meets spirit connection so I’d love to continue in the development of the show, but of course, that’s not in my hands. Fingers crossed. That is definitely the kind of work I want to continue doing, complex female and femme characters who struggle and fight to find themselves – and how they fit – in the world around them.’