by Nancy R. Nangeroni, 1/92
Last Fantasia Fair in Provincetown, I watched Mariette Pathy Allen (author of TRANSFORMATIONS – Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them) at work. It was an education for me, prompting me to take another look at her book.
It was by chance that I got to watch her at work. My friend Allison decided to take advantage of Mariette’s presence at the Fair for a photo session, and invited me along. I not only got to play cheerleader, but also wound up getting into a few shots with Allison. So I saw and felt what it is like to work with Mariette, both as onlooker and as subject. Later, I attended Mariette’s seminar on photography, where she taught basic technique and pointed out some of the less obvious aspects of some of her photographs.
The first thing that struck me was that she’s someone who enjoys her work. She likes to play while she works, which makes it a joy to work with her and no doubt contributes to the quality of her results. The second thing that became clear is that she’s good at it. Being with her expanded my appreciation of photography, rather than presenting opportunities for criticism. The third thing I observed is that Mariette loves people. Were I more perceptive, it would have been obvious to me from her work; now that I’ve seen her at play, the love in her pictures seems much more apparent.
In re-reading the introduction to TRANSFORMATIONS, I am impressed by its sincerity, intelligence, and, even more so, by its love. Here is someone who is truly our friend, who sees the beauty within us that we sometimes forget in our preoccupation with the quest for a more ideal appearance.
Mariette says that she does not take pretty pictures. She doesn’t; she takes beautiful pictures, where beauty is truth regarded from a loving perspective. I am lucky to have two pictures that Mariette took in Denver (IFGE ’91) in which I am a part; although neither is what I would consider my prettiest picture, I find myself fascinated by both. Each is an expression of my personality, vivid and real, rather than a pose for effect. They are honest, and, as a result, beautiful in a more full sense than other shots which seem more pretty at first. I suppose you could make the analogy that Mariette’s work compares to pretty pictures in the same way that a true friend compares to a smiling acquaintance. We are not always smiling; sometimes we think serious, sad, or tender thoughts. Mariette takes these, and says “Look! A real person! How beautiful!”.
Her book is more than just pictures. It is also a text which provides a sampling of the feelings of crossdressers, in the subject’s own words, carefully distilled by Mariette from long hours of interviews. They are honest; for some readers (my mom, for one) uncomfortably so. Because of their honesty, though, this book will endure as an insightful look at an increasingly significant segment of our society. Perhaps one day it will provide a record of the pioneers of far-reaching change. Or simply the documentation of a dying breed. Either way, it’ll be a treasure then, as it is now.
For those of us who would dare to step outside with dignity and self-respect, TRANSFORMATIONS is a beautiful and thoughtful expression of love for our sisters and ourselves. It belongs on our bookshelves, as well as on those of our public libraries and bookstores, where it can spread its message of love and acceptance.
Thank you, Mariette.