For six years the Dutch photographer Willeke Duijvekam followed the lives of Mandy and Eva, documenting their inner and outer attempts to align their sex assignments at birth with their gender identity — both girls were born as boys.
“Willeke Duijvekam reveals how for both girls the radical transformation into self-confident young women was chiefly an internal process. Her subdued photographs show how Mandy and Eva are absorbed in their everyday activities, or in their own thoughts. They are two remarkably normal girls — the one more vivacious, the other quieter — who do nothing other than live according to the dictates of their feelings.” (Source)
Duijvekam presents this series as an ingenious photo book, Mandy and Eva. The best designs enhance the subject matter, bringing new interpretations and depth to the work without taking over the narrative. In Duijvekam’s book, the subtle photos of the two transgender girls are incorporated into an interleaved book. In the video of the book, the pages are separate but related, each girl always present in the other’s spreads, advancing and retreating at the turn of a page. It is a masterful match of form and content. The book progresses backward through time, reversing the expected progression and reinforcing that these are two girls. The bodies that they were born into are much less important than the bodies in which they have become themselves.
“In my work I am guided by what moves and surprises me. … Ideas for projects are constantly unfolding and possibilities reveal themselves around every corner. The trick is to be open enough to recognize them the moment they appear and driven enough to pursue them. Diversity is what draws me to the people I meet, but at the same time I’m fascinated by our similarities.”
Toronto based photographer Wynne Neilly‘s self-portrait project, “Female to ‘Male’” documents the artist’s exploration into his gender identity. Neilly documented his journey from female to “male” with weekly photographs, vocal audio recordings, and other objects that represent a particular part or moment of the transition. As a trans identified queer artist who has photographed all types of people within the queer community, Neilly never had intimate access to another person’s physical transition. Once he knew he was going to start taking hormones, he decided to fully document the experience using a cheap instant camera.
With regard to the quotations used around “male”, Neilly maintains that his trans identity is a continual evolution: “I very strongly identify with being trans. My trans identity is not binary in the ways that society probably expects it to be. When heteronormative or mainstream society imagines a female born body transiting to a body that is perceived as masculine, there is an automatic reading of that person being “female to male” or FTM. This FTM experience might be very relatable and true for many trans people, but it is also completely wrong for others. I don’t identify as being male at all. Putting it in quotations challenges what it means to be a trans masculine individual. Having “male” in the title acts to eliminate some of the stigma behind thinking there is only one way to transition, and there is only one type of trans experience.” (via huffington post)
Photographer SD Holman uses her talent as a portrait photographer to capture women who fall outside of the traditional gender binary. In her series “BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls,” masculine women are not oddity or other. These are photos of women who identify as butch captured by a butch woman—they are women defining themselves. In this way, Butch has much in common with the current social campaigns stripping women of makeup, enhancements, and retouching and declaring them more beautiful without the artifice. This is part of Holman’s intent with the show—to use the Butch identity as an example of one of the classifications through which women are objectified. The difference though is the hate and fear that Butch women have faced as transgressors of societal constructs of femininity. Holman says:
“Butches and all gender variant folk walk in a world that is really hostile to them, so we tend to look inward. I was inspired to show their beauty by my wife Catherine, a femme who loved butches, and encouraged me to do this when I started talking about it.”
The rich diversity of butch women is evidenced here. Just as there isn’t one way to be a woman, Butch includes women of all shapes and colors and styles. The fluidity of gender is apparent in each photo.
Holman is an artist. Her portraits are classically beautiful, with their artful lighting and dramatic contrasts. The subjects mostly gaze through the lens to the viewer, unapologetic and authentic. There is no contrivance in these images, no sense of willful provocation nor is there any sense of apology. Author Amy Bloom writes, “Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.” These photos are intimate and groundbreaking, brave and matter-of-fact, beautiful and handsome.