Androgyny and gender bending have long been a part of our visual culture. The following is a breakdown of photography series that explore and challenge the rigid gender binary, highlighting the fluidity of gender. Each photo has been a source of inspiration to my own project, helping to inform what direction I’d like to take and aspects to explore in my own images.
Sarah Brimley “Androgyny”
Sarah Brimley’s photography has been a huge influence to my image making process as of late. I love her editing style and overall pristine aesthetic her images exude. As well as her images Sarah Brimley is an inspiration as a young photographer, who now assists one of the greatest photographers who has ever lived: David Bailey. I’ve been particularly inspired by her series entitled, “Androgyny” which explores the androgynous style, calling into question gender identity and “ideal” beauty.
The natural light and muted colours reinforce a dream like purity. In some of the images, gender is muted. Two boys with pretty faces and flat chests lye in bed, exuding a childish innocence whilst lyrics by Lorde slowly drift into mind “You’re the only friend I need. Sharing beds like little kids”. Their bodies appear pre-pubescent, their eyes wide, their complexions clear, their gender, sexualities and identities mysterious. These images I find hugely inspirational.
Sarah Swaty is a photographer whose ongoing series entitled “In Between and Outside” portrays and documents individual ideas and expressions of gender and aims to show the variety of gender identities beyond the prevailing man-woman dualism. Many of her portraits are accompanied by testimonials in which the subjects captured describe their perceptions of gender identity.
Similarly to Sarah Davidmann, collaboration is vital to Swaty’s image making process of individuals who contest to the binary nature of gender, which is evident through the inclusion of these testimonials. The testimonials are sensitive and personal, revealing Swaty’s capacity to reveal and find out much more about what’s going on beneath the surface of these individuals. By sharing the subjects’ testimonials with the public Swaty has given this social minority the chance to share their views on the sensitive and often complex subject of gender with the public and to be heard. Society still holds a strange view of individuals with alternative gender identities, thus transphobia and general misconceptions about the trans* community still permeate western society. By sharing these unique individuals views it evidences to the public a number of things including; the wide variety of gender identities that exist, the fluidity of gender, the struggles and triumphs of these individuals that break social “norms” as well as their intelligence and dignity. Every minority has the right to be seen and voices heard which is what makes Swaty’s images so powerful and important. They are helping to raise awareness to individuals with alternative gender identities, encourage diversity and are helping to re-define what is beautiful. Swaty comments on the series stating:
“The works were created with an interest in how cultural preconceptions about gender have created unattainable ideals about masculinity and femininity. Subjects range from those born into a gender they do not identify with, to transgender individuals who have physically transitioned and changed their bodies. The images aim to share the personal stories of a gender variant community while challenging stereotypes that LGBT communities face”
In relation to my own series which will consist of studio portraits exploring gender identity across a broad spectrum of individuals, “In Between and Outside” has been hugely inspirational. It reminded me of the power we as photographers have on helping to change and re-define social perceptions and what is considered “taboo” or even beautiful. My aim is to highlight unique individuals for their diversity and beauty, as dignified and empowered individuals, not as strange outsiders with odd gender identities. I feel Swaty’s aims were similar. Her images of individuals with a variety of gender identities appear strong and beautiful, as image I hope will remain and continue in western society.
Brimley, S (N.D) Sarah Brimley [online] available from<http://www.sarahbrimley.co.uk/> (6th May 2014)
Wonderland Magazine (4th October 2012) Emerging: Kim Jakobsen To [online] available from< http://www.wonderlandmagazine.com/2012/10/emerging-kim-jakobsen-to/> (6th May 2014)
Swaty, S (N.D) Sarah Swaty [online] available from<http://www.saraswatyphoto.com/> (1st June 2014)