Loren Rex Cameron was born on March 13, 1959, in Pasadena, Calif. His mother, Barbara (Chambers) Cameron, was an office manager at Sears. After her death in 1968, he moved to Dover, Ark., to live with his father, Robert, a nuclear engineer and nuclear plant manager.
Robert Cameron had a farm and raised horses, and Loren worked alongside him, building fences and taking care of the horses. He was daring and adventurous as a teenager, as he wrote in “Body Alchemy,” drag racing and rafting swollen rivers. He dressed in overalls and work boots and learned to swear like a trucker.
He was deeply uncomfortable in his female body, and at age 12 wrote away for information on sex changes. When a friend suggested he might be a lesbian, he thought, “Why not?” But classmates began to treat him as an outcast and he quit school and ran away from home, traveling the country by bus. He found work picking fruit and cleaning construction sites.
He ran a truck stop fuel station and joined a youth conservation-corps crew, where he met a group of lesbians who suggested he might find a like-minded community in San Francisco.
He lived as a lesbian for nine years before addressing his discomfort with his gender. He was 26, and had recently quit smoking pot and cigarettes. “For the first time in my life, I wasn’t numb,” he wrote.
As he began to transition, he took snapshots of the process, sending them to family and friends so they could get used to his new body and also see how happy he was. “What was initially a crude documentation of my personal journey became an impassioned mission,” he wrote. He took a basic photography class, bought a simple Pentax K1000 and began photographing other transgender people and learning their stories.