Social roles and norms are the root substance of Vaughan Larsen’s work. Larsen is a Milwaukee-based artist and photographer, primarily focusing on self-portraiture dealing with queer identities and relationships within society with their latest project being Rites and Parenthood.
“’Rites’ is where I recreate family photographs focusing on moments of tradition and ceremony that I feel like I can’t partake in as easily because I am queer,” said Larsen “’Parenthood’ is where I focused on maternity and how I couldn’t have a child from birth.”
The portraits model family photographs; for example in ‘Rites,’ Larsen is standing next to their father wearing a wedding dress and in ‘Parenthood,’ Larsen is in a delivery room holding a dog. The big conversation addressed within the work is identity.
“When I first realized I was queer I was 16 and I was just laying in bed and I was crying so much,” said Larsen. “I later realized it was not because I was sad that I was gay or queer but more because I couldn’t really subscribe to the expectation of having a family.”
Not only has Larsen made a name for themselves behind the camera but they also created a curated Instagram page called “That Way” which highlights different photographers from the LGBTQ+ community.
“I think it’s important to know the background of people unlike yourself,” said Larsen. “I suppose I’m trying to show the background or perspective of the LGBT or queer people.”
I first saw Larsen’s work a year ago through an exhibit and I loved it. Even though at the time I had no connection to them or anyone in the photographs, I saw myself in those roles we all were told was normal — things like getting married and the pressures of starting a family. Larsen’s work puts a lens on that mindset and allows the viewer to challenge what is perceived as expected.
You can find Larsen’s work at Var West Gallery, 423 W. Pierce St.