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Bryce Anderson model photographer self portrait
Photography Bryce Anderson

Bryce Anderson’s intimate self-portraits capture gender’s nuanced beauty

The model and photographer uses the images to explore and express their identity

Just like other creatives in their generation, Bryce Anderson isn’t just one thing. As they’re beginning to make a name for themselves as a model – they’ve worked with the likes of Marc Jacobs, Moschino, Maison Margiela, and GCDS – they’re also flexing their muscles as a photographer, taking incredibly captivating self-portraits. 

With COVID-19 forcing us all indoors, Anderson has taken this time to hone their craft and explore the different facets of their identity that their self-portraits explore. “I have always known that I’m not meant to be just ‘Bryce’, but a vehicle for the lives of others and their ideas to live through me,” they explain on how they first got into taking the images. “My images tell a story and whatever that story may be to you is exactly what I aimed to create.” 

Evoking a feeling of 90s magazine shoots, Anderson might portray classic beauty with huge 60s lashes in one set of images and then channel kawaii beauty in another. “I greatly enjoy acting and I love becoming somebody else,” they explain. “I sometimes feel a bit like that film Being John Malkovich, like people are constantly coming through me and changing my way of life. 

While creating beautiful captivating images, the self-portraits are also an outlet for Anderson to explore their gender identity in a way that they hadn’t felt had been accurately portrayed in shoots elsewhere. The model and photographer hopes that portraying the nuance of gender identity in a ‘for us, by us’ way will have a knock-on effect to the fashion and beauty industries at large.

“During this time, we need to shine a spotlight on people who have something to say,” they muse. “Hollywood, fashion, and every industry beyond needs a redesign and we need to start including people of more interest, talent, and diversity. We need to have more empathy and heart otherwise the world is going to get even darker than it already was. Listen to what the kids have to say, we’re smart!”

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up? 

Bryce Anderson: My name is Bryce Anderson, I grew up in many states in America as my family moved around a lot, but most prominently I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am an artist, having started as a model but now transitioning into creating images – I intend one day to act in and create my own movies.

Do you remember the first time you were conscious about your appearance?

Bryce Anderson: I remember a period of time in my childhood, from I would assume birth until I started elementary school, where I was never concerned about my appearance. I was always consumed with beauty and images from the beginning, but it never concerned me.

Beginning school and entering the first social circle where you are judged based on how you look was what changed me and took a bit of my carelessness away. I always had a hatred for public school due to how it made me insecure about how I dressed and looked, I was always more interested in creating things rather than how I dressed, but I did take part in changing myself a lot to adjust to different groups of people in order to ‘fit in’, something I detest about school. This aspect of it is completely unhealthy.

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the way you presented yourself visually? 

Bryce Anderson: I would say my first influence of beauty was musicians and Marilyn Monroe. Surprisingly, I remember never having an awareness of sexuality and beauty until one year when I was about 6, my sister gifted me her old iPod that had just two songs on it –  both by Madonna. The songs were “Material Girl” and “Lucky Star” and let me tell you I became infatuated. I had a complete obsession with these two songs and the way they made me feel, when I listened to them in the car I would have these extremely intense visions of myself, suddenly wearing amazing things and performing, I could see a life for myself that I had never seen before. 

Madonna was my entrance into the concept of being someone outwardly artistic and visually enticing, and this led to the discovery of Marilyn Monroe naturally. Marilyn to this day is always on my mind – I can not describe her with justice. Also musicians back then were everything to me, the way they fully became a character and devoted themselves to a concept – it was just glorious to me.

How did you get into photography and taking self-portraits? 

Bryce Anderson: It’s interesting I actually began taking these photos of myself out of a bit of spite. At the time I took my first self-portraits, I was at this frustrating point in my modelling career. People did not quite yet grasp who I was, often concerned with my gender-bending abilities and frightened by it it seemed. At this point, this was before the small revolution that has since happened in the fashion industry of diversity, but truly I was on the brink of it and quite hopeful, but I must say we still have quite a way to go in that category still. 

I felt at this point that no one was capturing me the way I wanted to be captured, everyone loved the androgynous look for me, but I felt that it wasn’t being done correctly. I thought back to how I used to take photos of myself before I was signed and began conceptualising a brand new book for myself. Ever since that day, it’s been a ride and I really found a stepping stone for myself through the photos. I’m now able to show others what I can become and now when I come onto set, people are actually interested in my own opinion of what I want to look like and sometimes even ask for my input on concept and direction. 

How did you get into modelling? Was it always something you wanted to pursue? 

Bryce Anderson: I discovered modelling at 14. My school had a photo studio and a girl in my class used me for a photo project, after the first one we just kept doing it every week and the concepts got stronger and we kept taking it more seriously. Eventually this led to me discovering fashion magazines- I would begin to collect them at this point and bring them in my backpack to school, my grades started to fall as you can imagine because once I discovered this world of imagery, I became infatuated. I was obsessed with being in front of the camera and would even begin to photograph myself to create a modeling portfolio. Once I had built a small folder of images, I begged my mother to help me find an agency. The rest is history.

What do you enjoy most about it? What have been some of your favourite jobs? 

Bryce Anderson: I’m an actor deep down and when modeling came my way I found something where I could become a character then I clung to it. The act of becoming a character and evolving throughout the day is so pleasurable. I always say modeling is a bit like a mixture of moments, you feel a bit like everything. You have to be open to being anything and the attention you get is adrenaline which transitions into confidence, which then becomes more adrenaline. 

I don’t have a favourite job realistically, I can recall many moments where I felt overjoyed with my career and moments that I worked so hard to get to. One experience I adored was meeting John Galliano. I had just landed in Paris for a fitting with Maison Margiela and I walk in to see him wearing basketball shorts, high top sneakers, a sport coat and a headband while smoking a cigarette. I thought it was marvellous.

Can you tell us a bit about how you come up with each character/image? 

Bryce Anderson: At first, it was about making myself look the best that I could. My initial mission was to become a successful model off of these photos and give people the opportunity to see me in a different way, to spotlight my talent. But naturally over time it grew and grew, and became my art. No longer are my self-portraits about looking amazing, although I adore that, some you will notice are even a bit gruesome and uncomfortable.

I can’t really tell you what it is that inspires me to make these, and I also feel I shouldn’t tell you as that can often ruin the allure of it. They are more or less so for people to perceive themselves and feel what they feel. Sometimes I can even be a bit perplexed by them and not even know what it is exactly that I have created. They are my heart and that's all I can say about them. 

Is beauty something you try to capture in your work, or something that you reject? What is your relationship to ‘beauty’? 

Bryce Anderson: I always think that if I get an image that has ‘beauty’, fabulous. Beauty is what keeps the heart pumping and makes you feel happy, so I absolutely adore beauty. Not to mention, the great deal with beauty is that it’s one of the only words in the human language that can be used in any context. What one person thinks is beautiful could be absolutely grotesque to somebody else which I find completely fascinating. There is no line between beauty and ugly and sometimes I will create something that I think is just glorious and I could show it to my friend and she will say it’s terrible, so I gave up finding the definitive line and instead just accepted a photo for being simply a photo that must be open to a discussion. 

I do think though, that over time my work has become a bit more like you said in the question, a ‘reject’ to beauty as often that is how I have felt most of my life. When you are different to the beauty standard of whatever area you live in, slowly your psyche becomes prone to feeling that you are not good. I was often put down when I was younger by schoolmates and it was made very clear to me that I was different. It was not until I was the age of 17 that I realised this was a blessing. So, what follows are photos that are a bit gruesome as it’s almost me mocking the status quo and forcing people to view something that is not considered beautiful compared to what we see mostly today. We should start telling everyone in the world that they are beautiful so then we will have all kinds of new art that people won’t be afraid to air out.

How has the pandemic/lockdown changed your approach as a creative? 

Bryce Anderson: When this began, I retreated to my family’s home in Nevada for a few months and locked myself in the spare room and just took photos and photos upon photos to try and relieve the stress of it all. I really found my footing in that time. Before, I was in New York hoping to progress in my career, but when all this happened and I went home, I found something quite invaluable – I found my voice, which is always evolving. 

What are you working on at the moment? 

Bryce Anderson: I just moved to LA and I have been putting all my energy into new projects and chasing a career in movies. I realise how I adore modelling, but the art of making things and creating things with others and being able to direct what you do is fascinating and I want to learn more about it. Modelling can be extremely difficult as you’re constantly at the approval of others. Instead of waiting for people to believe in me, I decided I will just show them. 

What is the future of beauty? 

Bryce Anderson: There is no possible way I could predict that. But what I can say is that this generation has something brewing and beauty is about to get very interesting. Art is about to be stronger and more passionate. The world is practically oozing like a lemon with anger and passion and something big will shift – all the ideas will congregate to the middle creating an explosion of interesting and new ideas. 

We have a bit of a way to go until we get there, but it will happen. Beauty will stand until the end of time; it's like a weed, but the kind of weed that grows the pretty yellow flowers at the end. It always finds a way to grow, even through that terrible and ugly asphalt it comes out of.