A Different Lens


Photographer Jesse McClary ’05 lifts America’s overlooked voices from the shadows

Jesse McClary ’05 has stories to tell. Along with Allie Leepson, Jesse makes up half of the queer/trans married photography team team Allie + Jesse. Currently based in Austin, Texas, McClary and Leepson have worked for brands that are quintessentially American: Levi’s, Wrangler, and Stetson, to name a few. But when not engaged in their commercial work, they seek to highlight often-overlooked voices through a series of meaningful—and equally American—photography projects.

One such ongoing project is “Cowboy by Choice,” in which the duo documents the lives of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who live as ranchers, wranglers, rodeo athletes, and the like. At right are three photos from that series, which provides a new perspective on the traditional narrative of the American West. The duo’s choice of using analog rather than digital formats lends a nostalgic air to the images visually. The tactile, painstaking process of shooting and developing film also serves as proof of their commitment to shining a light on the people and places they photograph. See more at allie-jesse.com.


Jaclynn and Vega

Jaclynn invited us to her ranch on a cold and windy day in January. The love between Jaclynn and her horses was palpable. As soon as she walked into view they came running. I, of course, wanted to photograph them together, but in a way that showed that affection. I like her natural protective and strong pose here.


Mackenzie is a professional horse trainer and rodeo athlete from Montana, but we happened to cross paths in Arizona on a road trip. She takes her horses south in the winter to keep them active. This pose reminds me of historical portraits of cowboys, where the photographic process would have been much slower.

Cecilia Ford, “The Bearded Queen of Abilene”

We met Cecilia for the first time at her home in West Texas. This portrait was made almost immediately (and spontaneously) after we walked out of her house to start. I loved the anonymity of it. If this was the first photograph of Cecilia someone saw, they would come into the experience of viewing her with the presumption that she is your classic all-American country music performer or entertainer.