Maggie West Brings a Kaleidoscope of Sexuality to the Limelight

The L.A.-based photographer’s body of work is as diverse as the bodies she captures.

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With an upcoming election that will decide the fate of Planned Parenthood, photographer Maggie West is showing her full-fledged support for the foundation with her first solo exhibition and benefit show, saying “Almost every person I’ve photographed [in these series] has visited Planned Parenthood.” Launching on November 9th at Leiminspace Gallery in Los Angeles, the show will feature two correlating exhibitions on the top and bottom floors of the gallery, showcasing works from all four of her photo series: KISS, Fluid, 23, and STAND, the latter of which features a combination of men and women, both cis and transgendered (Clem Creevy, Brittney Scott, and C0neja are some), who all support Planned Parenthood. 100% of profits from her prints and merchandise sales will go to the foundation. We got a chance to sit down with Maggie to talk about the exhibition and the work she’ll be showing. Scroll down to read more about the significance of both cis and transgender representation in her photos, how she combines the artificial with the organic, and why stereotypes have no place in art (or anywhere else).

Most of your work focuses on the various micro-levels of relationships. Where did your fascination with intimacy come from and what do you think is the importance of showcasing these moments?
We are constantly being exposed to a stream of contrived imagery through advertising and social media. With KISS, I wanted to capture really authentic connections between individuals. The vulnerability of those moments is really beautiful. I also think there is something fascinating about combining an artificial aesthetic with genuine human emotion or organic elements. Something about the synthetic lighting helps to abstract natural elements, like kissing or bodily fluids, and makes us take a step back and examine their beauty.

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How excited are you for your first solo exhibition, and how have you been organizing and planning it?
Im very excited! To be honest, this whole thing came together very quickly. Schelsey Mahammadie-Sabet, who runs Leiminspace, and I decided to do the show in late September. Originally, the show was just going to feature my previous work (KISS, Fluid, and 23) but after talking to some people about the show, I wanted to give others a chance to be involved and show their support for the organization. Over the next month, I shot 50 people for the show. It’s an amazing mix of writers, artists, models, musicians and porn performers. I’m so happy I could get such an amazing mix of people to show their support for Planned Parenthood.

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Why was it integral to you that you represent both males and females in the series?
I think there is a stereotype that supporting Planned Parenthood is just a cisgender women’s issue. This is silly considering how many cis men and trans men and women they provide healthcare and information to every year. I felt like it was really important to show this diversity in the series. It’s important that we all come together to support this great organization!

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Your upcoming photo book, 23, will be released this spring. Can you tell us a little more about it?
I wanted to do a book of nudes that depicted gender and sexuality in a less binary way. While looking at nude photography books, I noticed a lot of them only feature photos of very stereotypically masculine men or feminine women. Most of these books do not include transgender people at all. With 23, I wanted to feature a spectrum of gender identity and sexuality. The book features twenty three cisgender and transgender models under a series of colored lighting schemes. It was really amazing to work with such a such a diverse cast of models for this project.

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Don’t miss out on Maggie’s show, STAND, a Benefit Show for Planned Parentood. Click here for more info.