Ames photographer takes senior photos for LGBTQ + youth free of charge

When Jo Allen was in high school, they wore clothes in their senior photos because they “just had to look like that,” they said. But they also made portraits in “more manly clothes” that felt true to their identity.

Now the 23-year-old photographer, who is queer and non-binary, wants to give LGBTQ + high school graduates pictures that they can look back on with pride.

In honor of Pride Month, Allen is giving away two senior photo sessions for LGBTQ + high schoolers in the 2021 or 2022 class in the Ames area and the greater Des Moines area. Each winner, selected by a panel of LGBTQ + residents from central Iowa, will win a free hour-long session where they can wear two or three outfits and receive 25 edited photos. You can find the link to enter here.

“I want you to feel valued, celebrated and, above all, visible … so you can look at this photo and say, yes, that’s me – that’s what I think of when I think about being or being happy as a trans person as a gay person or as a lesbian person, “Allen said.

Allen, a recent Iowa State University graduate, came up with the idea for the giveaway from one of her advisors on the CYstarters summer program. Allen is developing her photo business Jovisuals with the help of the ISU initiative.

“I’m an advocate for the BIPOC communities, and I’m an advocate for the LGBTQ community, and I just want these communities to know that I will always be a resource to work with,” Allen said, adding that they are black, queer and non-binary, gave them “a very unique perspective on life”.

Allen said that they approach their photography with the goal of “making natural documentations of who (people) are,” playing music clients like they did during the shoot to make them feel more comfortable, so it’s “not just … going out and take pictures. ”

Allen wants customers to be able to look at photos of themselves and think, “That’s a real smile – that’s a real laugh,” they said.

Related: We need to celebrate LGBTQ joy this Pride Month. Life depends on it.

And with the free photo shoots they not only want to give something back to their communities, but also to document people who are historically underrepresented or misrepresented in the media.

“It always comes down to visibility, back to representation, because the more we see of it, the better the chances that we will hopefully get along as a society,” said Allen.

Allen also documented the development of her own gender identity and presentation through self-portraits. Before being diagnosed with cancer in college, they said they dressed very feminine to suit their peers.

When I look back on high school photos, “When I was still strictly identifying as a woman and had my very, very long hair, I was so attached – as if I was more concerned about losing my hair during cancer. than to lose my life, “called Allen.

Allen posts photos of themselves and their customers who present themselves in a gender-equitable manner, regardless of whether they are wearing a neck tie or a dress. They said even if people are unfamiliar with trans issues, it can simply show the importance of being who people are.

“We are proud to be here. We are proud to express ourselves. And I want young people in particular to feel that way,” said Allen.

Isabella Rosario is a public safety reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @irosarioc.

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