Photos and Interview by Falene Nurse
I found a little pixie in a cafe today, her name was Rashida.
Slight in frame, but exuding confidence and strength beyond her years, what sorcery was this? She was blonde and straight now, where as she had been curly before. Dressed like the rebel leader of a very chic, androgynous, revolution. Nibbling on her sugary treats and drinking hot tea, Rashida could easily pass for a teenage girl - although she’s actually 20 years of age. I knew immediately that she wouldn’t be hard to photograph with such a darling face and doll-like body - and I was right. Not only was it impossible to take a bad picture of this girl, but her relaxed demeanor made every shot naturally beautiful. Like the images that I’d seen before, somewhere else.
sex, love, polyamorous?
Rashida: I have to have some type of a connection with someone if I have sex.
Falene: Gosh when I was your age all it took was a pretty face. You’re very mature, apparently I wasn’t. Or I had magpie tendencies, “caw-caw caw pretty, pretty, ooh pretty - caw-caw, caw-caw shiny!”
Rashida: So the chances of meeting more than one person like that at a given time - if it’s not just about sex - is heightened. That’s why I believe in polyamorous relationships. Having a meaningful, emotional and physical relationship, with more than one person.
Falene: Does that work out for you? Or is this your first time at attempting this type of relationship?
Rashida: Well I have a boyfriend that I have been with almost a year, we met in January of last year and then we established a relationship. So to start with it wasn’t an open relationship, to start with I hadn’t planned on having a boyfriend, but you meet someone and you have that deep connection with and things change.
Falene: So you liked him and he liked you, so you both changed each others mind. And decided to date exclusively?
Rashida: Our relationship was really good for a long time.
Falene: Can I ask what’s a long time for you?
There is almost 15 years between myself and Rashida, so a short time to me might be an eternity to her.
Rashida: Well for me it was a long time (grinning). To me 6 months is a long time. He’s a really great guy, things were going very well.
persons of interest
F: So let’s call them Persons of Interest. So say Person of Interest A.
R: OK and then Person of Interest B, I had known before I met my boyfriend(A) and we had good chemistry, but it wasn’t a relationship. And when I started dating my boyfriend, I just stopped seeing that other person. As usually happens.
F: How did you and your boyfriend come to that conclusion together, to open up your relationship?
R: We’ve always had a really open communication and been honest about what we think. Which we have also encouraged in each other. So he was the first to express the feelings about thinking about sleeping with other people and I too had been thinking a similar thing, but just wasn’t the first to verbalize it.
F: Your minds were sort of in the same place, but he brought the topic up for discussion?
R: Right. And I had also begun to miss Person B, so we established the circumstances that we were ok within an own relationship. Safety obviously and neither of us wanted to know about those “other” relationships. That other person, their details. At which point I started seeing Person B again.
F: And when you say seeing other people, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything physical, but you have that option?
R: Right. It’s a broad spectrum, I mean we’re both young and my thinking was that we shouldn’t deny ourselves other experiences (or relationships) because we are together. And at the same time we don’t want to miss the opportunity of being together either.
F: It makes sense, but isn’t that just dating?
R: Not exactly because those outside relationships are most likely temporary, they aren’t going to change our connection. They won’t affect our relationship with one another, why should they?
F: I think that it might only become a problem when one starts interfering with the other.
R: Which for the most part didn’t happen at first.
F: It never does, but it’s a complicated situation to be involved in. Thought out, but complicated.
R: It did start to get that way. There were moments when time became a factor, who did I make plans with first, that sort of thing.
F: Wow either I’m really lazy, or that is way too complicated lol.
R: The more I care for them both, the more complicated it becomes. To be fair to both people that I have a strong connection with, beyond just the physical. It seems that is what is becoming a bit of concern for my boyfriend, the physicality isn’t the issue, it’s he didn’t realize I had such strong feelings for the other guy. I’m not sure if he’s comfortable with it anymore.
F: Well because with feelings comes the possibility that he might lose you all together. I mean that is possible, you may eventually want to spend all your time with just the one person.
R: In some polyamorous relationships you don’t really care about labels like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, it depends on the couple. So as my relationship progressed with my boyfriend, as well as my significant other, I began to question if my boyfriend was suited to this type of a relationship - and everything that comes with it. I mean time management is a factor.
F: I bet he cares about labels now huh? Shocker lol.
R: It seems that way, which wasn’t the reasoning behind any of this and I can appreciate where he’s coming from, it’s just confusing.
F: Well you can’t have everything you know, he either wants an open relationship or not. But know that eventually someone wants to be first choice, in one area or the other.
R: Yeah i think I may have been a bit naive because I wasn’t treating anyone differently. I was being equal and fair, but then that became the issue. Time wise.
F: Now on top of that you are also not 100% straight?
R: Yeah but they both knew that.
F: How do they know that? Have you been in a relationship with a girl outside of them?
R: No, but I’m attracted to women and I wouldn’t restrict myself from having a relationship with a woman, if I had strong feelings for her.
F: So you are bisexual?
R: That’s very specific.
F: Well you are attracted to both genders?
R: Yeah but there are other non-gender specific people out there, that don’t think of themselves as a woman or a man. What if I fell in love with someone like that?
F: Like having a relationship with a transgender person?
R: I mean I could, if I met someone that I liked and they happened to be transgender. I wouldn’t let that stop me having that relationship if I wanted to. I don’t see why that would matter, why should it?
F: You are very open minded, I guess my restriction, beyond the initial attraction is when you get down to the genitals. You either like one, the other, or both. Like Chaz Bono’s girlfriend she fell in love with a woman, so as a lesbian who likes women (then Chaz became a man) I imagine that was very difficult for someone who doesn’t want a relationship with a man. But yet she still loves that person, very complicated.
R: I understand that.
F: So how do you know beyond attraction if you haven’t had a real relationship with a woman?
R: In my senior year I had an ongoing crush on this girl that I could imagine having a relationship with. It wasn’t available to me, but I wanted to and I knew that. It went beyond infatuation, had she offered that to me.
F: In your heart you know both emotionally and physically, it would work.
R: There’s a potential there.
F: So that’s what you meant as identifying yourself as queer?
R: Yeah, there are experiences and relationships I haven’t tried yet, but I’m open to them if they come along.
F: I guess I know what I can manage and what I can’t. And although I find penises visually unsatisfying, I can manage one. I can’t really say that about another lady’s fairy.
R: Yep and I feel I could lol.
F: Wow that would make your current relationship, even more complicated.
F: I personally think if you meet a girl that you really like, you should dump the 2 boys all together. And just concentrate on her.
R: That would be terrible of me.
F: I know but I have the feeling that you should give the girl a real chance, as it’s a relatively new experience for you. God I sound like I’m pushing you to become a lesbian in an exclusive relationship with woman. Which in a way I think I am lol.
R: I’m non-monogamous.
F: Yeah you meet a real lesbian, she’ll sort you out. We’ll have you girls married off in a week!
R: Ideally I would like to meet someone who has a similar outlook on life that I do. Someone who wants to explore non-monogamous relationships also. Otherwise it wouldn’t work well.
F: You seem very sensible and progressive. You also seem like you have a much kinder heart than I and I think you should find others with equally kind hearts. Otherwise it could all go terribly wrong.
shooting with me
R: Well comfort and safety was an important part of it for me, I had seen the work and thought “ok he’s done countless MIMP shoots and all the girls speak highly of the whole experience.” Going into their personal space and taking these beautiful intimate pictures, with women he doesn’t actually know. So I felt comfortable going in.
music, art & ken park
R: Lately I’ve been listening to folk a lot. One of my favorite bands is Fleet Foxes, there’s about 6 of them and they do these great harmonies.
F: Girls and guys?
R: No, it’s all male. It’s like soothing, relaxing, beautiful music. It’s just amazing!
F: Tell me a couple of artists that you like, they can be contemporary or traditional.
R: Brandi Miller, I love her work. James Jean.
F: Any artists that you aren’t that fond of, or think are over rated?
R: Picasso, I’ve never been a fan of that. Also impressionism in general, not a huge fan. Those are the first 2 that come to mind.
F: I use to feel that Dash Snow was completely over rated and yet the art scene in NYC raved about him. I think people were more interested in his personal life, than the merit of his work. The descendent of aristocracy, that chose to live like a gutter punk. You know if a gutter punk could take the weekends off in the Hamptons. Have you ever disliked an artist’s persona, but liked their work? Kind of how some people feel about Michael Jackson, after the “alleged Neverland happenings”?
tangent: suddenly this song by comedian Lenny Henry comes to mind
“I’m a super star, from another planet. Look like E.T. and my sister Janet. And my one burning ambition, is to be like Peter Pan and live forever more in my Never Neverland
I’m mad, I’m mad, you know it!
I’m absolutely bonkers!”
R: If someone has a terrible personality and is a terrible person, it really turns me off whatever they do. Whether it’s art or anything else, it’s hard for me to separate the two. If you are a genius but a dick, it’s hard for me to get passed you being a dick lol.
F: Yeah I struggle with that a lot, because there are a couple of photographers and film makers whose work I might admire but if I saw them in the street I might want to cut them. Like Larry Clark. Did you see “Kids”?
R: I heard about that movie, but I haven’t seen it yet.
Sometimes Rashida is so mature, articulate and logical in her discussion, I forget her age. Anyone in their 30s remembers when “Kids” came out, it’s a pop culture reference we can all relate to, but when I was a teenager Rashida wasn’t even in kindergarten yet. She makes this very easy to forget.
F: I was a big fan of “Kids” and his photography work in “Tulsa.” I have to admit I really love some of his photography. Then there’s Ken Park, no interest in that one. I guess my issue with him is his love of the young and pretty. He likes em young and pretty:) It was one thing when he himself was 17, but his sensibilities haven’t changed. It feels a lot less like documentation now, because the person in control, directing, behind the camera lens is 69 - but the subjects are still 18 year olds lol. I mean under what ordinary circumstances would these individuals even spend time together? What other premise would a senior citizen shoot footage of seemingly underage people having sex and doing drugs, if he wasn’t Larry Clark?
I’m going to stop ranting now.