MaryV Benoit Wants To Know What You Love About Yourself

Published January 7, 2020

Jade & Tourmaline, Couple. All photos by MaryV Benoit.

When photographer and performance artist MaryV Benoit isn’t shooting campaigns for Calvin Klein or posing in front of the camera for Opening Ceremony, she likes to take naps—”very important,” she says. “Especially in New York.” She likes to take screenshots, curate her Instagram collections, and, yes, she’s still on Tumblr: “Even though they were like, ‘No porn!’ I still find some pretty good content on there.” Benoit recently debuted “You’re The One Who Holds Me Tight,” a collection of portraits centering on the nature of chosen family, especially as it manifests within LGBTQ+ communities. The project is part of Google Pixel and LENS’ Creator Labs, an artistic incubator program that highlights emerging artists creating vibrant, socially-conscious projects using the Pixel 4 phone. Working in collaboration with her sibling, writer Kénta Ch’umil, MaryV investigates what it means to forge connections beyond bloodlines, and how they provide a source of comfort, support, and stability that biological relationships sometimes don’t. We caught up with MaryV to ask about her creative process, what having a chosen family means to her, and why we should all check in with ourselves more often.

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Chella Man & photo of Kumari, Best Friends.

“We live in an age where media, content, and visuals are at such easy access to us, people are constantly taking in things, so I’m in this constant fear that people would just take my images in and be like, ‘Oh, okay, I’m done. What’s next?’ I want people to have some type of moment, to take a second and think, ‘Oh, what am I looking at? What does this look like? What does it make me feel?’ I think the gallery is really great because you’re in this whole space with all of the work. I feel like you have the time to take it in, rather than it just on your computer or on social media where you’re just scrolling. I really love the idea of walking into a space and having a moment with each piece. That is very reassuring for me to feel like, okay, this work is important, it’s valuable.” 

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Robbi Sy, Miyagi Superior Scott, Serena Tea, Kahlil Palmer, Ta’Lor Mosley, Moréna Espiritual, Tina Cari, Nicole Sgarlato.

“What I’ve seen time and time again within the queer community is that chosen, queer families are so important. A lot of the time their biological family isn’t, for whatever reason, supportive or isn’t there, so they turn to this chosen family to create a new one. I think that’s just as important and just as valuable as this nuclear family, which I don’t even think is happening anymore. Like, the mom, the dad, the two kids, and a dog or something—what does that even mean?”

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Bonny Dias, Marcias Fuentes, Linda Carolina, Liaam Winslet, Elizabeth Chavez. Miembros del Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo NY.

“Sometimes I’ll write in a journal if I have one with me, I’ll just scribble something down. For the most part, I use my phone. I’m constantly taking screenshots, and I have to go to my screenshot folder and look through to see what I’ve collected. Also the folders section on Instagram—I am very proud of myself with this. I curate them really well, and I organize it so much. I’m like, ‘Okay, here’s the folder for like specifically gem makeup, and one for writing.’ I’m constantly looking at that and trying to make that a full, curated thing with things that I enjoy looking at to be inspired by.”

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Petrone Philip & Aaron Philip, Father & Daughter.

“Being on set is really fun. You see something that you’ve put together in your mind, you see it in-person. I think that’s the best feeling ever—the feeling of coming together in this one place and you have to get this job done. When I’m working with someone that I haven’t worked with before, I take a moment to talk to them and ask them questions about themselves before we get started shooting, just to let them know I value you more than just as this person that’s in front of my camera, that I’m interested in what you are, your being, and what you have to say to me.”

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“I start off having someone think about the beginning of their day, and asking, ‘What are usually your first thoughts when you wake up?’ and ‘Are you sleeping next to someone?’ That kind of transitions to ‘What do you love most about yourself?’ I think that makes some people kind of looking inward rather than looking outward because their eyes are typically open. I think that’s really interesting to see that shift—whether it’s facial expression or body movement, I can see something happen within them. People wouldn’t ask that question point-blank very often. I feel like they should, everyone should be thinking—not all the time, but every now and again—checking in, like, ‘What do I love about myself the most?’”