One of the most fascinating things about being a portrait photographer is the opportunity to meet and learn about so many new people. Whether I'm doing quick headshots or something more lengthy and artistic, every time I manage to leave with some greater understanding of a person and who they are.
As I explore this concept of photographing other creatives and their works, I'm aiming to feature a broad representation of subjects, namely in the LGBTQ+ community. There is an often voiceless lack of expression in media for all the various forms of our intersectionality. What makes us who we are? We all have ethnicities and gender identities, sexual orientations and relationship statuses. We speak different languages and have different cultural backgrounds. Yet, we often fail to explore those in ourselves and each other in meaningful ways.
James Prost is the subject of this photo series. He let me join him in a ritual that belongs to his Indigenous heritage, and he taught me all about it in the process. James is one of the most true-to-self people I know, deeply tuned in to who he is in every way. His story is one that can hardly be contained in one little interview, but I took the opportunity to share with you the amazing person I know here in Seattle.
Let's get started.
Who is James?
Oh boy... I'm a transgender queer polyamorous man but I like to joke that I'm just a "Wolf in a Human's Clothing."
I'm a wildly hedonistic kinky pagan living with BPD and PTSD from childhood trauma.
What do you do for work? Hobbies?
Leather is very much my life- hobby, fun, sub culture lifestyle, personal expression, and how I pay my bills as the owner/operator of a leather crafting business.
And my inner animal LOVES nature- hiking, camping, swimming, and fucking in it.
What is the community like for you in Seattle?
My sense of community has greatly shifted from feeling the need to belong in the kink and leather communities to finding a home in my queer, pagan, and often transgender friends. I'm slowly growing into finding my sense of where I belong in the Native/Indigenous community as a person who is much lighter of skin.
Tell us about your ethnic heritage. You recently discovered this on a new level, what was that like?
I'm quite mixed- German/Luxembourg, French Canadian Souix, Spanish, Xichano, and Comanche Nation.
I was raised to only express the European parts of myself but the last 5 years of coming to know and understand myself as a mixed indigenous person has been a journey of love. I've come to understand my own spirit rather than trying to follow another’s religion.
Tell us about the ash - what is it made of?
Most days I'm "good" and do a daily burnt offering which can vary by the day but usually consists of lavender, bear (osha) root, and rose petals. I also keep the ash of my sage and sweetgrass smudgings.
Other colors are generally made with different pigmenting like from berries or plants. The use of black for me comes from a couple of places. A little over two years ago I had a visual manifestation of my spirit animal- a black wolf. Furthermore, black paint was often used by Comanche at times of war; there is a daily battle as an individual living with mental illness as well as being a queer, transgender, mixed, pagan individual in our current political climate.
What do you do with it? How did you learn about this process?
I've found that struggling with my depression has giving myself the opportunity to 'step into' my wolf. Using ash that has sent smoke up to The Grandfathers and Spirits helps ground me to be present and more in control of my energy. My animal serves as a vessel of protection for my own energy and the Wolf itself is a symbol of Protection of family/tribe/pack.
Some of this has come from research on Comanche, Souix, as well as Celtic/Nordic Pagan rituals and practices. In the last year, I've gone to a Native Dance and ceremony which had a sacred painting ritual; I had a grounding tattoo ritual with a Two-Spirit individual which felt like being the strings of a tuning guitar. The week after this shoot, I was blessed with going to my first Sweat Lodge which was an amazingly centering and empowering experience. I'm quite young on my journey of understanding of my spirituality so I'm still sniffing out ways to connect and learn.
What is it like to take that moment to yourself? What do you think about?
I'm much more senses oriented, my smell and my feeling of the energy of things around me or people I'm connected to. I often think about the issues I'm having in my life and ask that these pains can have healing, its often a time of prayer.
How does your Native heritage tie into the other parts of who James is?
I grow my hair like those of the Mohawk tribe to remind myself of my battles and grant myself a sense of resolution. I only cut the side except in time of mourning in which all hair is shaved.
James creates custom leather work under the name Howling Pup Leather, and can be found on Instagram here, or around Seattle in a leather kilt and black faux-wood glasses (that I totally also have a pair of).
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