Carmen’s Team Pick: Becoming Visible

Hey, when was the last time someone told your story? (Tegan and Sara don’t count.) No, really, think about the last time someone tried to preserve, in a historical context, the countless and varied experiences of any  queer population. Ok and when was the last time you thought about how transgender youth are the fastest growing homeless population in New York City? Because I feel like this is important and worth talking about, and I bet you do, too.

Josh Lehrer began Becoming Visible, a photography project based in portraiture, to tell those stories. Since he says it better, the project’s mission statement kind of sounds a little like this:

Bring faces out from the shadows by placing them front and center in my portraits. Many homeless transgender teens have been traumatized by the loss of their families, their homes and often, their dignity. I will use lovingly produced photographs as a way to help heal some of the pain caused by all of that loss and create images that reveal their humanity. A humanity that we can share and connect to.

To describe the photographs as anything but “loving” would be a disservice to Lehrer’s goals and passion. The NY Times spotlighted his work in 2009, when the project began, and I quote:

Josh Lehrer, 45, has been chronicling a minority that is still about as invisible as they come: homeless, transgender teenagers. He has been laboriously bringing their lives to light in a project he calls “Becoming Visible,” a series of 80 16-by-20-inch cyanotype portraits, each one of a kind.

Mr. Lehrer, a commercial photographer based in Manhattan, said he began last fall to look for ways to harness his visual imagination and technical skills to some social purpose. “I wanted to be of more value,” he said in an interview this week. “I wanted to be of service in some way.” When he learned from city officials that the fastest growing segment of homeless youth were transgender teenagers, he knew he had a subject.

In order to produce a new installment of Becoming Visible and expand the project, Lehrer recently launched a fundraising campaign. The Becoming Visible Kickstarter page is running for another 18 days. That means you hardly have time to pledge away as much as possible! To make it even more fun for you, the rewards for giving are awesome: stamps featuring the photos, handwritten poems, etc. It’s a dream come true for everyone! Really! Double, triple, maybe even QUADRUPLE YAY! And even if you can’t give, telling friends and spreading the word would guarantee a success for Lehrer and his truly unique project.

So yeah, that’s what I thought. I know you’re sold. Go tell your friends and go open your hearts, and maybe your wallets (pretty please? – and I don’t usually ask for things you know), to this project. Go forth and make change. You get to be a part of a really big picture now.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. Carmen- great article! This project is absolutely amazing, so everyone PLEASE do whatever you can to help make this project happen!

  2. Call me a cynical bitch, but I hope he does not cash in on the kids. I do think he has every right to make a living, but not get huge profits off others’ misfortune.

    Anyway, I am glad he is doing old-fashioned methods. I was way into photography before digital. Digital pictures look flat, I don’t like it. A friend gave me a whole darkroom set up when she moved. I developed film and made prints. I have a pack of that “solar paper” where you put something on it and leave it in the sun, and then you dunk it in water to “develop” it. I think it is called a cyanotype. I made pinhole cameras out of pizza boxes. I gave a class about it one summer to kids. I think it is so much more fun than digital.

    • Diver,

      I love photography, and would love to someday (when I have more money) buy a good old fashioned camera and get into it heart and soul. However, for many people digital is the cheapest way to pursue a passion/hobby, and while I agree some digitals are flat, certainly there is a great amount of good ones, don’t you think? Technology is always making advances and most photographers do digital tough ups of their work, anyway, which makes a strong case for digital.

      However you said fun, not better, and while I have only tried developing film a couple of times, I have to agree. Will you teach me how to go about cyanotypes one day?

      I guess it’s like the Kindle/Old fashioned book debate. Kindles are sleek, fun, and lightweight, but in the end it doesn’t smell like a book, you know?

    • Dear Diver:

      I would never call you a cynical bitch (not my style) but just to assuage your feelings about my potentially profiting off of the kids: It’s important that you know that these giant prints and big gallery shows bring a ton of attention to a largely invisible problem. They cost me a ton (virtually everything I have) and while I really believe in the quality of the art, it’s not like people are falling all over themselves to buy it. It’s not exactly the kinda stuff that matches the sofa, if you know what I mean.

      So thank you for giving me the chance to clarify that. And thank you for taking the time to comment. All the best, Josh

  3. Diver, all proceeds from the sale of images have been donated to Sylvia’s Place, the shelter in lower Manhattan that houses these kids.

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