Lindsay Perryman’s film Tops explores the intimate experience of African American people with top surgery

How does an artist balance their vision with making space for the expression of others? Lindsay Perryman has an answer.

12 March 2024


Lindsay Perryman’s work has always been a documentative fantasy; their shots are a window, their subjects a mirror. When you look through their body of personal work, it feels almost like a memory book with pages that tell the intimate story of every person behind their lens, while also reflecting a broader story of the African American queer experience.

The photographer and filmmaker’s interest in image making started in childhood, on days browsing through family photo albums. “[Photography] was always very present in my family, from my grandfather taking it up, to my father always having cameras around the house,” they share. They can pin their love for photographs to the experience of being able to stand still moments that took place long before they were born, and experience them as if they were there. “There’s something very special about the photo album, that many children won’t get to experience, sadly,” they add.

For Lindsay, it seems as though the greatest concepts come about while reminiscing on their personal or collective experience. Such is true for their debut film, Tops, which came about after looking back on their experience with top surgery. “I felt it was a very intimate and vulnerable time between my loved ones and the queer community,” they tell us. They thought back to their time posting updates online and how their experience was validated by people, as well as the tips shared with them for healing. But what’s most striking is the way Lindsay makes these decisions on how to document a theme; like why did they decide that this theme was served best in moving image?


Lindsay Perryman: Tops (Copyright © Lindsay Perryman, 2024)

In many ways Tops feels like a series of motion portraits, and a continuation of Lindsay’s memory book oeuvre. “I wanted every scene to be a moving image, I mean that is basically what film is, but I felt that approach would be right for the project because you can experience a wider array of emotions,” they tell us. Shot on Super 8 film, you can feel the intimate nature imbued in the process, where the filmmaker and camera are connected by eye-in-viewfinder for the majority of the shots. Lindsay captures the intimate connection between those who have had top surgery and amplifies the communal validation that they all share; from aiding each other in aftercare to embracing each other while discussing the wider implications of their trans experience. The artist flexes their eye directing and photographing while also allowing the subjects to be, and express the array of emotions. “To me, there is always more to an image. In this day and age, we can create stories and read captions, but that isn’t enough, there is always more to be told,” they add.

There is such a powerful intimacy throughout Tops that makes it feel as though nothing is planned; moments that can only be caught in the knick of time. But, Lindsay approached the process for creating the film in a similar way they approached projects throughout their fashion degree – with a moodboard that helped to lay out their thoughts. Before casting individuals who could represent the experience of African American people with top surgery, followed by a shot list. It’s a testament to their masterful balance between artistic vision and collective experience , the specific and the comprehensive, and themselves and the collective. “I hope Tops will make queer people and those with top surgery feel seen. I want people who experience the film to feel the intimacy between the subjects, and the subtle romance of undergoing top surgery.”

GalleryLindsay Perryman: Tops (Copyright © Lindsay Perryman, 2024)

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Lindsay Perryman: Tops (Copyright © Lindsay Perryman, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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