Ethan James Green

Revisiting Cultural Spaces: Ethan James Green Reflects on Growing Up

Show Notes


New York–based photographer Ethan James Green is renowned for his distinct eye and the intimacy and openness portrayed in his work. An early career in modeling and exposure to some of the great photography visionaries of the times paved the path to a whirlwind career in fashion. Today his work, which has appeared in prominent publications and campaigns—including Dazed, i-D, M le Monde, Perfect, Vogue Italia, Vogue, and W, as well as Alexander McQueen, Dior, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton—spotlights elemental themes, such as contemporary identity, sexuality, and style. A published author, his books reflect on and display the scope of queer identity of the past decade, feminine performance, erotic costume, and beauty. Hailing from Michigan and raised in a religious household, he chats about his spiritual journey, as well as discovering and integrating with the queer community. In this episode, he relays to Christopher Michael how he shifts between his two worlds, of fashion as a photographer and art as a gallerist, highlighting the need to create bridges among generational aesthetics and perspectives. What's contemporary now? "Being authentic, breaking rules, and moving forward even when it’s uncomfortable."

Episode Highlights
  • Point of entry: New York (via Tokyo) was the initial inspiration for the 17-year-old model.
  • Working with the greats: Ethan learned a lot while modeling for some of the preeminent fashion photographers of the time, such as Steven Meisel (how to communicate a commanding, confident voice without aggression), Mikael Jansson, and David Sims (how to streamline the process of capturing iconic images and the tricks that facilitate success).
  • Out of Michigan: Ethan staked his claim as a model—and ultimately a photographer—by leveraging determination and a homegrown portfolio that attracted notice.
  • Turning point: Ethan's mentor is the artist and photographer behind the 2011 book "David Armstrong: 615 Jefferson Avenue"—he embodied and modeled integrity.
  • Moving beyond: Ethan's fundamentalist upbringing proved a beautiful challenge, allowing a personal spiritual journey that led him to understand what was true for him.
  • Doing the work: Integrating with the queer community opened Ethan to an entirely new community that replaced his childhood church community.
  • Trans awareness: Understanding his struggle as a gay man in a broader context.
  • Making it: The moment Ethan knew he'd made it: covers for Vanity Fair, Vogue, and an Alexander McQueen campaign. Then Rihanna! That was a moment.
  • A perfect superstorm: Ethan became sober just before the pandemic and found himself subsequently challenged in his ability to connect as an artist and individual.
  • Gravitating towards art: Ethan embraced an artistic ethic that opened up a transgenerational conversation across artists, galleries, and social media.
  • Bridging spaces: To span modeling, photography, and now gallery art seamlessly, Ethan had to find brilliant collaborators; pursue other work before focusing on fashion photography; assist where he could; find a mentor; and break some rules!
  • What's Contemporary Now? What's authentic to the moment, but also what's synthetic to the moment? It is mixing collaboration and multiple perspectives to advance the conversation, taking the next step, even if uncomfortable, and breaking the rules to move forward.
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