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We are Leather Women

By February 26, 2014

Documenting Leather History is not an easy endeavor. Over the last 24 months, traveling on a shoe string budget, C. Creane has been slowly, but surely, documenting women throughout the Leather Community. One-at-a time, falling in love with each participant's personal story. She takes her time getting to know each Leather Woman through her camera lens. Fully engaged in her project, she still continues to forge ahead:

We are Leather Women. A Photographic Documentary of Leather Women.


{module We are Leather Women slide show}

Although she originally hails from Southern California, her Leather journey began in the late 1980's in London, England. Ardent about the fact that our histories have been told for centuries by OTHER people, with women's stories often silenced by families and historians. She long ago began questioning why aren't our stories, such as women's suffrage for example, not taught early on in schools. Sharing with me that, "once as a young girl I was telling a story in school about my grandfather's Native American history, and I was told to sit down, and then teacher announced to the class that it was not true." Her focus is to capture the history and stories of Leather Women's Community.

When asked about community "Elders" and the women who have come before us, she spoke passionately about capturing women from all over, including San Diego's (and Southern California's) Leather Community, whom she photographed in November, just prior to relocating to New York to focus on photographing women on the East Coast. She has asked that I not include names in this story, as the project unfolds, she wants each portrait to speak for itself, about that woman and what she is conveying through the image.

c-creane-leather-women-bootsEven when I chided, and then begged, she would not provide names of whom she had shot or who she wants to shoot still. She declared with great conviction and enthusiasm that she could not choose one person she still wanted to capture above all others, saying "Each one is so amazing and has such a different, unique and cool story". Then quietly the photographer wistfully noted that she had also lost out, she wasn't able to capture some of the women with whom she had discussed the project before they passed away. This made her more diligent and focused about forging ahead. She feels the Leather Women's Community history is extremely important. But due to the fact that many women have hidden their lifestyle for so long, getting women to participate is a very delicate process. She wants the organic nature of participation to come from the heart when invited.

"I want to capture the images of our Elders first. My focus is the women who have been in the Leather Community the longest. I want those who may have had to come up in secret, and I respect that history, but I still want their photos. I want to tell their stories in whatever fashion I possibly can with them. They may not always be the most comfortable in front of a camera. But I find my subjects are always honest with me, and that's what I am looking for. Many are afraid of being photographed for a variety of reasons, and I understand. There is so much these women can share, but not verbalize, that is what I want to show the world. These women are so much more than the limited view society is given by the media. Creane feels these mainstream examples are "limiting to the soul".

c-creane-leather-women-handcuffsShe hasn't written a lot about the images she's put out on FaceBook. And at the urging of friends and a seeing a back log of some 13,00 images, she realized this is “a real project”. To get the project rolling there was a lot of work to be done, shooting, traveling to shoot, editing and it's a lot of work. C. Creane is currently enrolled in school as well, and working to support not only her household, but this project. "I want the public to look at this show, and feel like these women are their friends, I want the public to look at these women, and know that they can relate to them. I know that if I take away the titles and just convey their image, another woman can see herself in the eyes of another."

The goal of We are Leather Women is to preserve the stories of our history, humanity, give individuals a way to relate.   "A lot of times, the images that we are given in life are so extreme, death, violence, abuse, we turn to tumbler and pinterest to find beauty and share with one another, but the media bombards us with fear every day. I see beauty and love in the people I photograph, even if the world sees them as hard. For that hour I listen to their stories, I fall in love with them every time, so I can capture their Leather Spirit, that spark in their eyes." C. Creane adds, "A lot of the times BDSM, kink and Leather scares people. I want to bring (it) to the public in a more humane side, the easier softer welcoming format. I need to convey to the public, what strong, amazing, real women look like. Not what is dished out through the media. In the Social Media sites she uses, she says, "I am enticing my audience, so that they can have a view into a Subculture in a way that is more accepting to understand what we do, who we are, what our subculture has done to better their "normal lives", a way to make it more palatable to them. To understand that there are so many various branches of Women's History. I also want the viewer to be able to be able to find something personal to relate to in each Portrait. I try to capture that quiet inner strength, that Leather Heart, that non-conformity, that special energy about each woman, on my camera."


A friend once said to Creane "Long ago I saw images from the photographer Cathy Opie, when I saw those photos, I knew I wasn't alone. I had found my tribe. If I can convey through this Documentary the connection to just one person and give them that knowledge, that there is a tribe for everyone, then I have accomplished what I set out to do." She went on about how the community is so enormous and spread out. "It's been a larger undertaking then I ever even realized. Thankfully so many people have been so generous. I try to save money and stay at people's homes. Plus, when I am staying at the home of someone that I photograph, I get to see how great everybody's love and tribe is…I get to see the depth of their Leather Spirit, in the quiet spaces, it's all the same across the board". She stresses, "Most people do not fit into that media driven Rockwellian or Stepford type norm. So you have all these amazing women, that are part of a large subculture that is growing, and who don't feel they fit in, and they don't care, which is more empowering. Through my pictures, they can say, hey this here, this is me, this is my strength, this is real life, this is Leather. And when one or two woman see these photos, and know there is so much more to life and not feel alone, that there is community in different places. That is empowerment.

MasterJ DM Leather Love C Creane"To know that you are not alone, that's the depth of LIFE".

C.Creane will complete this journey, but if every person on her Facebook page donates just $10.00 to the project, she will be able to afford to travel to capture everyone on her list without the dilemmas that can occur attempting to do so on a shoestring budget. You can donate directly to her through her website "WeAreLeatherWomen.com NOW by clicking on the TRAVEL FUND link. Or look for her Indiegogo Project - We are Leather Women.