At first glance, these photos by JJ Levine look like your average mortifyingly awkward prom-couple portraits.

But look again, and you notice something unusual: The couples have swapped genders from one photo to the next, convincingly (and confusingly) embodying both sexes with just a change of clothing and makeup.

"Are you a boy or a girl?" is not the reaction your average high schooler hopes for while wearing their prom night finery.

But in many cases, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the actual genders of the people in Levine's series, titled "Switch."

The Montreal-based photographer seeks to destabilize the idea of gender as a singular, fixed state, instead revealing its fluidity.

"Switch" preceded Levine's series “Alone Time,” in which one person is captured as two genders in domestic settings.

Maybe the humiliating tradition that is prom night wouldn't be so bad if it were turned into a nationwide drag ball.

Each model wears a dress and a luxurious wig when portraying a woman, and a suit when portraying a man.

Levine subtly and playfully points out that if such costumes are all it takes for us to make assumptions about a person's gender, then our cultural understanding of gender must be pretty superficial.

See more of Levine's gender-bending photography here.

Co.Design

Couples Swap Genders In These Awesomely Awkward Prom Pics

Photographer JJ Levine puts a gender-bending twist on the traditional awkward prom portrait.

At first glance, these photos by JJ Levine look like your average mortifyingly awkward prom-couple portraits. It's all there: the requisite purplish-gray backdrop, peach-fuzz mustaches, baggy rental tuxedos, and tragically gaudy gowns. But look again, and you notice something unusual: The couples have swapped genders from one photo to the next, convincingly (and confusingly) embodying both sexes with just a change of clothing and makeup.

"Are you a boy or a girl?" is not the reaction your average high schooler hopes for on prom night—but in many cases, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the actual genders of the people in Levine's series, called "Switch." And that's what Levine is going for—having alternately identified as male and female for years, the Montreal-based photographer seeks to destabilize the idea of gender as a singular, fixed state, instead revealing its fluidity. As in his series "Alone Time," in which one person is captured as two genders in domestic settings, the ruffled and tuxedoed subjects here confound us with their ability to shift sexes, or to occupy the widely misunderstood space between genders. Each model wears a dress and a luxurious wig when portraying a woman, and a suit when portraying a man—along with masterful makeup by Levine.

The photographer subtly and playfully points out that if such costumes are all it takes for us to make assumptions about a person's gender, then our cultural understanding of gender must be pretty superficial. Maybe the humiliating tradition that is prom night wouldn't be so bad if it were turned into a nationwide drag ball.

See more of Levine's gender-bending photography here.

[Photos by JJ Levine]

Add New Comment

10 Comments

  • Ruby Gold

    I do like the experiment above, but it is NOT just the clothes that "construct" gender. Take a closer look at the pictures and you will see that the individuals have not only switched clothes and make up. They also have completely changed their postures, body language, facial expression! Putting your arm around the partner, the way we are smiling and looking at the camera is also part of the way we are "doing" gender.

  • ugh. if you want to act like gender identify is a fluid thing, fine. but don't show me a bunch of pictures like this and ask me to pretend the the only difference between the two sets is who is wearing which set of clothes.

    and pardon me but i will categorize people. glazing over the differences and pretending we're all the same to achieve equality is a pretty dumb way to achieve it.

  • "And pardon me, but I will categorize people."

    No problem. We'll continue to point out your categorizations are woefully myopic, presumptuous and unscientific. Isn't knowledge great?

  • Yeah I do the same things with writing samples — like, I instantly knew you were a guy from the way you put those words together. It just had such strength and conviction.

    But I think the "differences" you speak of are harder to quantify — how do you separate biology vs. culture? My girlfriend throws a ball "like a girl", but don't you think that might have something to do with the fact that she was never allowed to play with the boys during recess? I think if you look at things through the lens of socialization, its pretty difficult to quantify differences.

    Andy, I think the next time you look at porn, you're going to visualize what the women would look like if they were trying to look look men (yes I could also tell that you were straight and white, too).

    Have fun with your weird boner.

  • Yeah I do the same things with writing samples — like, I instantly knew you were a guy from the way you put those words together. It just had such strength and conviction.

    But I think the "differences" you speak of are harder to quantify — how do you separate biology vs. culture? My girlfriend throws a ball "like a girl", but don't you think that might have something to do with the fact that she was never allowed to play with the boys during recess? I think if you look at things through the lens of socialization, its pretty difficult to quantify differences.

    Andy, I think the next time you look at porn, you're going to visualize what the women would look like if they were trying to look look men (yes I could also tell that you were straight and white, too).

    Have fun with your weird boner.

  • I'm sorry, but this is hardly an exercise in futility. This line explains everything: "Levine subtly and playfully points out that if such costumes are all it takes for us to make assumptions about a person's gender, then our cultural understanding of gender must be pretty superficial."

    As long as the world insists on categorizing a person and treating them by this category (be it race, gender, wealth, etc.), things like this aren't futile. Women have been fighting for equality for a long time., and it wouldn't be such an uphill fight if people stopped making judgements about gender.

  • Gender isn't a "fluid thing" and being a man or a woman has nothing to do with race categorization.

    The deconstruction of sexual identities by the pseudo gender theorists out there is by far one of the most dangerous ideas around at the moment and a concrete threat to society.

    Anybody can dress up and "look" like a man or a woman but no matter how you spin it, it is still an exercise in transvestism