“Return to Me” is a call back to the 1920s jazz styling, and a time when segregated gender, race, and sexuality were prominent.
Upon beginning this project, photographer Laura Du Vé discussed with Kaiit, a musician and artist from Naarm Melbourne in so-called Australia what she might be interested in creating. Kaiit uses she/he/they pronouns. “The two of us have always shared a love of jazz and the music of the 1920s-50s,” Laura said.
They nodded to gender non-conforming soul musicians of the past, such as Gladys Bentley, Besse Smith, Tony Jackson, and Ethel Waters. Soul icons who were changing discussions on black sexuality and gender in their own personal and political way.
“Throughout COVID, I’ve been listening and leaning heavily into the jazz era between the 1920s-40s. From the pioneers of jazz to the aesthetics. From the dancing, and the fashion, the makeup, and the queer black artists behind such a bloody, and historic period.” Kaiit says.
“I had in mind for some time to take a series of photos with all of this being expressed. I was also wanting the contrast of masc and femme energies to be present within the shoot, with some of the inspiration coming from Gladys Bentley. Laura understood the assignment and delivered! She brought her grandma’s stole which was super special to wear and brought its own iconic significance.”
Musicians such as Bentley have been a cultural touchstone for LGBTQ+ jazz musicians both now and in the past. Both Kaiit and Laura were interested in showcasing those underlying masculine and feminine spaces that Kaiit themself so often can occupy under the layers of cisgender, colonial patriarchy in such a whitewashed Australia. They wanted to highlight that constant ebb and flow of multi-gendered experience Kaiit has as a Black woman and non-binary person.
You can find Kaiit’s work and music on Spotify, see her touring, follow her updates at @kaiit_isshe on Instagram, or follow her make-up artistry at @beatbykaiit. Laura Du Vé is a visual artist and photographer from Naarm Melbourne in so-called Australia. You can find her artwork and photography services at lauraduvephoto.com or @femmeplastic and @ldvphoto on Instagram. Laura uses she/her pronouns.
Model: KAIIT @kaiit_isshe
Studio: Alt House @alt___house