Arts & Entertainment

'Changing Rooms' photo exhibit aims for tolerance

Camila Ferrufino, a high school senior, poses in an array of clothing styles to reflect a person's ability to transform.
Camila Ferrufino, a high school senior, poses in an array of clothing styles to reflect a person's ability to transform.

Like many teenagers who grow up in Key West, Camila Ferrufino is just as comfortable around straight couples as she is a transgender person or a man who thrives by taking the stage in heels, wigs and makeup.

Sometimes the clothes don't make the gender identity, she said.

"It just should be what they want to wear that day," said Ferrufino, 18, an aspiring musician who studies jazz and salsa trumpet and plans to attend the University of South Florida after graduating from Key West High School this year.

On Thursday, Ferrufino will unveil her contribution to "Changing Rooms," an exhibition of documentary photography by Andrew Printer and the Key West High School Gay Straight Alliance.

In a set of three photographs framed together, Ferrufino appears in a dress and lipstick, then in a neutral suit and finally wearing skater clothes and carrying a board.

"It's supposed to one way or another present some type of a transformation," she said.

Changing Rooms opens with a reception Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St., and runs through May 26. 

Printer's subjects range from one of Key West's most popular performers, Inga, and backstage at a burlesque show to the Red Barn Theater to landscape-type portraits of the Glynn Archer School being rebuilt as City Hall and a bandstand at Higgs Beach captured during different hours of the day.

Fantasy Fest served as a backdrop in one photo of a trio dressed as Tarzan, Santa Claus and a spaceman of sorts.

"Key West is a stage in and of itself," Printer said. "People come here to pretend to be something other than they are. They wander the streets."

Printer marveled at Key West's small-town nature -- he was easily able to meet with the high school students to present the project -- matched with its progressive attitudes.

"It's a very sophisticated place," Printer said. "I could have done this in a number of coastal cities: New York, L.A., San Diego."

Key West, which elected an openly gay mayor in the 1980s, has for decades had laws on the books protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination.

Ferrufino joined her school's Gay Straight Alliance two years ago to support the LGBT community and now is the group's president.

"Even though marriage equality is acceptable now, there are still many other topics the LGBT community needs to address," Ferrufino said, listing issues such as addressing people by the pronoun he or she identifies with and the flurry of anger surrounding public restroom designations across the country.

Ferrufino said she is confident wearing whatever she chooses in public.

"I find myself to be very feminine most of the time," she said. "If I feel like dressing down with baggy jeans and a skater shirt, I'm going to do it and not feel any different because of it."