Inside the Leather Jacket - Janet Ryan
A joint IMsL Foundation, IMsLBB Productions and Women’s International Leather Legacy (WILL) ongoing program!
As a community, we have been around for a lot of years. We check out the workshop and keynote speakers and see our women’s leather history. We have seen efforts by many groups and individuals to collect our history and make sure we capture the lives and stories of those who have helped to create who we are today.
Janet Ryan first discovered her feelings about SM while working for Multiple Vision, a feminist newspaper collective, in the early 1980’s in Kansas City. She saw a poster at the women’s bookstore denouncing objectification of women in advertising. It contained some of the hottest, most interesting images she’d ever seen. She immediately knew she was kinky, and came out to all her vanilla friends.
She is a 1981 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute with emphasis in sculpture and photography. She’s been a freelancer since graduation, worked as a photographer, production manager, an assistant of many types, a prop, location and food stylist, and has been self-employed all of her adult life. Since 2007 she has been the photographer and food stylist for KCQ, an award-winning competitive BBQ team.
Her documentation of the Leather community began at the 1987 March on Washington. A major focus of her work is International Ms Leather, where she was staff photographer 1995-2013. Other events she’s documented include Women in Leather Legacy, American Brotherhood Weekend, Living in Leather, Marches on Washington in 1987, 1993 and 2000, Oklahoma Mr. Leather, Play House 10th Anniversary, and many other contests, workshops and fundraisers.
Janet’s leather activism includes being co-founder of NLA:KC in 1992, co-founder and producer of Heart of America Leather in 2001, and a member of the KC Pioneers since 2002. She was chair of the KC Pioneers’ Run in 2011. She’s been treasurer of almost every organization she has held office in and was a producer of the first public fetish ball in Kansas City in the early 1990’s.
Her photographs are published in The Second Coming, Drummer, The Leather Journal, the poster for IML in 2002, Taboo Magazine, and several issues of On Our Backs in 2001 and 2002.
She held the title of Ms Mid-America Leather 1993-’94 which basically covered the entire central time zone!
She lives out and proud in Kansas City, and started showing this work to straight audiences in the early 1990’s. SCP Gallery of Kansas City gave her a solo show in January, 1993. “Differently Pleasured” drew a wide audience and presented the subject of Leather and BDSM in a way that was able to bridge the gap of understanding. She presented a show concurrent with Creating Change 2006 at MoMo Gallery in Kansas City.
Ryan also promotes other artists’ work. She presented a Kinky Art Slide Show of about 10 artists’ work at the leather conference in conjunction with the 1993 March on Washington. From 2010-2012 she was the gallery director for MRP Gallery, located in the hottest art district of KC and sharing space with Master Richard’s Place. Our First Friday events were open to the adult public, brought in local and regional artists, and often included demonstrations of rope art. One of our openings was a top three pick out of over 100 shows for Pitch Magazine.
Photographing leather women has been Janet’s passion and life project. She hopes to capture the authenticity of who we are in the moment and preserve it for generations to come. Instead of reinforcing stereotypes, these images show our world as it is, in all our individuality and commonality, full of laughter and pain, as we have grown our community over the years.
Thanks to all the wonderful people who’ve allowed me to photograph them over the years, it’s been so much fun! I appreciate your trust and all the work everyone has done to build this amazing community of ours!