Interview: Artist Steph Clarfield

I recently attended FIT’s exhibition Becoming, a collection of artists’ work that explores the ever-changing process of “Becoming” through connective themes of identity, intimacy, and creative space. I interviewed one of the featured artists, steph clarfield (she/they), a 20-year-old NYC-based documentary/ intimate life photographer. While utilizing digital and sometimes 35 mm film, steph aims to capture candid and organic moments primarily within the LGBTQ+ community. By embracing the community’s beauty while also shining a light on its everyday life, steph hopes to provide a window into the daily routines and struggles within the community.

dapperQ: How does your installation contribute to the larger overreaching concept of the exhibition?

steph: By exploring the notions of identity and intimacy within the context of trans-masculinity, my work directly engages with the process of “Becoming.” It illuminates the journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and the celebration of personal identity. I tried my very best to highlight the diverse facets of personal evolution and the courage it takes to embrace one’s authentic self within the broader spectrum of identity and creative expression. I’m in my junior year at FIT majoring in photography and related media. In my exhibitions class this semester we were able to construct installations within a
theme of our choosing. my installation revolved around the idea of highlighting the beauty within trans-masc individuals. there are 3 inkjet prints mounted, a testosterone display, and a chest binder.

dapperQ: What inspired the body of work presented in this exhibition?

steph: I was definitely inspired by my personal experiences with my own gender identity and expression. Since the end of elementary school, I always knew I was “different” in some capacity. Throughout my time in grade school, my gender was always questioned by others and it was really difficult as I was already confused about my gender.

After moving to the city for college I was exposed to various kinds of people of all different identities. This allowed me to feel comfortable to embrace my true self within my school and meet people like me. There are so many people in society struggling to come to terms with their gender identity, including myself, and I really wanted to illustrate the routines and experiences that trans-masc individuals endure.

dapperQ: Can you share more about your creative journey from concept to presentation?

steph: Although I was set on my theme of embracing trans-masc beauty, when it came to presentation/ installation, there was a lot of back and forth between ideas. I knew I wanted more than just a display of printed images to really pull in the viewers. The testosterone display was provided by one of my really good friends,
Cam who’s in the process of transitioning ftm who I’m so so thankful for. Cam was actually in the exhibition. He was the one doing his t-shot in those images!

The FIT museum did a beautiful job with the layout of testosterone bottles and syringes. Also on display was a chest binder, which is a significant article of clothing within the trans community. I received so much love and support on this passion project and I’m super grateful for everyone involved.

dapperQ: How is this piece personal to you?

steph: As someone who has been questioning their gender since middle school, I find it really important to educate people outside of the LGBTQ+ community that trans people have and will continue to exist. I’ve been judged in the most negative ways for my existence and the way I present myself. I’m so passionate about helping to create a more inclusive and accepting society for my community.

To get this project started, I posted an Instagram story looking for trans-masc individuals to model for me. I ended up meeting some really cool people and learning about their stories. This project healed me in a way, coming from high school in Long Island where I was always forced to fit into a box, “boy or girl” to FIT in NYC, where no one cares how you identify. People here want to know you and that goes beyond just gender identity.

While I’m still in this “I don’t know” period of my life, I wanted to find beauty within the uncertainty.

dapperQ: The entire installation is moving, but what stuck out to us as two members of the dapperQ team was the inclusion of the binder. Can you share why the inclusion of this garment was so important to the full story and the ways in which garments play a significant role in the construction of identity?

steph: The inclusion of the chest binder was really important to me as it is a crucial part of trans-masc fashion. I debated as to whether or not I would include my own within the installation or just buy a new one to create a cleaner look. I decided to use my used chest binder to emphasize the wear and tear these things go through. Although I don’t wear it anymore, there was a point in my life when I felt more comfortable flat-chested, and I still do sometimes but once again, there’s beauty in being confused. It leads to you trying new things and seeing what you do and don’t like.

The significance of chest binders in trans-masculine fashion cannot be overstated. They offer a means to dress in a way that aligns with one’s gender identity, allowing individuals to feel more comfortable and confident in their appearance. Binders enable the wearing of clothing styles that might otherwise accentuate traditionally feminine features, granting greater freedom in fashion choices.

dapperQ: What can we expect next from you?

steph: My dedication lies in continuing to explore and showcase the rich diversity and stories within the LGBTQ community. Moving forward, I aim to delve deeper into the multifaceted narratives, portraying the beauty, struggles, triumphs, and everyday moments of individuals across the LGBTQ spectrum. I’m always open
to meeting new people and collaborative projects! We all have to support each other within these creative fields and I love learning about everyone’s story.

Follow steph’s work on Instagram.

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