354MC Task 4 and Other Parts

354MC Task 4 

Dissemination- A concise distribution/dissemination plan explaining who you see as potential recipients of this portfolio, demonstrating an awareness of your audience and the context in which you are or will be working.

“…fashion is obsessed with gender, defines and redefines the gender boundary” (Wilson 1985:117).

Fashion is always changing. The seasons change; hemlines, collars and cuffs change. This relentless metamorphosis is exciting, overwhelming and increasingly demanding. Fashion and visual media constantly re-presents the world to us, providing versions of ourselves that are healthier, happier and more successful. Magazines tempt us with the promise of quick bikini diets to meet the svelte ideals of fashion campaigns. They flaunt ineffectual products for younger pore-less skin, whilst endorsing their impressive Photoshop skills. We are bombarded with an unrealistic “ideal” of masculinity and femininity with its sights set exclusively on the skinny, young and cisgender. Visual media and fashion sell us much more than products and representations, they tell us who we are and who we should be. Influential in constructing gender roles, omnipresent visual media instils and reinforces the collective expectations of gender, beauty but what’s more “normalcy”. The result – body image, homophobia, transphobia and sexism issues still permeate our culture.

Trans* identities and other individuals who contest the rigid gender binary are still considered “outside” the “norm” and are under-represented compared to their lesbian, gay and bisexual counterparts. Fashion, however, is in a state of immense transformation, embracing uniqueness where gender bending has fast become all the rage. Undoubtedly fashion does more than just change – fashion causes change. Through fashion as well as visual media we are able to break the “norms”, address the taboo, challenge society, push boundaries and make our voices heard. Fashion is, at this current moment in 2014, challenging the rigid gender binary and what is beautiful like never seen before!

Transgender model Lea T is the face of Givenchy and was seen kissing Kate Moss for the cover of Love Magazine’s Androgyny Issue. Andrej Pejic who leaves his gender “open to artistic interpretation” walks in both men’s and women’s fashion shows for Jean Paul Gaultier and poses in both genders for numerous other mainstream fashion campaigns. Lady Gaga has a male alter ego Jo Calderone. Fashion designer Marco Marco uses drag queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to model his flamboyant garments which are worn by a number of mainstream cisgender celebrities including Katy Perry and Fergie. Barney’s Spring 2014 advertisements featured seventeen transgender models in black and white photographs by Bruce Weber. Fashion photographer Steven Klein shot an androgynous Stoya for A5 magazine and Chanel featured models with moustaches for their 2014 cruise campaign. Gender blurring and individuality are bang on trend.

Over the last couple of years mainstream culture has started in earnest to breakdown the male/female gender binary and, with that, embrace the 50 shades of difference that lie in between. Thus, my photographs of gender bending, ambiguous individuals who embrace their individuality and move away from the gender binary can definitely find a place in the current fashion world’s agenda. Whilst trans* identities, drag queens and socially defying identities are becoming more and more mainstream, I like to feel that my images are slightly different to others out there representing trans*identities as they highlight them for their diversity and beauty as opposed to their alternative genders and physical genitalia.

Despite the celebration and even acceptance of transsexuals, gays and drag performers in mainstream culture, the representation of trans*individuals are still falling short compared to the L.G.B community. Trans*individuals and other identities that move away from the gender binary are still very much a marginalised section of society, often stigmatized and misrepresented. A lack of knowledge and common misconceptions can leave trans* individuals, their families and friends feeling isolated, socially excluded and vulnerable. This must change. It is crucial that people within the trans* community and those who have other socially defying gender identities are given the support and exposure they warrant like any other social minority within the U.K. We must raise awareness and show these individuals in a light that is accurate of the Trans community thereby reducing discrimination, prejudice and hostility. I hope my images will help advance Trans equality within society and prove that beauty may reside in diversity.

I hope that the recipients of my portfolio will be other photographers and professionals who are interested in gender, sexuality, identity and fashion and want to change the representation of such alternative identities.

Gender Matters is a charity based in Wolverhampton which provides a comprehensive programme of practical support, counselling, advice and information for anyone with any questions or problems concerning their gender identity, or whose loves ones are struggling with gender identity issues. The programme aims are to relieve the mental, emotional and social stress of anyone affected by Tran’s issues, providing a confidential and professional service to all beneficiaries at all times.

Gender Matters was recently funded by the Heritage Lottery for an exhibition entitled “Mapping My Journey” at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery mapped the identities of Birmingham and West Midland transgender individuals to raise awareness to gender identity issues featuring photography, poems and artworks showing the trans* community in a light which truly shone. Gender Matters is constantly in search and advertising opportunities for artists to get involved in creative projects and I’d love to share my portfolio with them.

I also hope to assist and find jobs within the fashion industry, particularly with those who have informed my own practice and who I find extremely inspirational. I would love to share my portfolio with photographers like Sarah Davidmann, Claudia Moroni and Bettina Rheims whose works feature alternative gender identities in a beautiful and dignified way. This could potentially lead to an apprenticeship, assistant opportunity or for some general feedback from professionals I really admire.

I would like my portfolio to be shared with fashion magazines as gender and androgyny are very much hot topics right now. I would like to consider contacting Vice, Pigeons and Peacocks and Love Magazine, as these brands often explore the taboo and offer opportunities for fresh new ideas and talent.

I will feature my digital portfolio online: on my blog and other social networks to ensure it is easily accessible for anyone to view. I will email my portfolio and websites to potential recipients as this is fast and efficient.

Looking back should address the following points:

  • your key role/s around producing the degree show and appropriate show cases for your works.
  • what existing skills you drew upon and which new skills you learned
  • what you felt went well and what could have been improved
  • collaborative work vs work you did alone.

My role in relation to the production of the degree show was as a participant of the marketing team to ensure the event gathered momentum, gained a lot of attention and achieved a sense of excitement for the works being displayed at the exhibition. The works featured explore a range of topics and subjects by fresh new and upcoming talent and it was important that this was shared with the larger public to ensure the degree got a good response and turn out.

Social networking, self-promotion and little behind the scenes shared online was and continues to be an efficient and easy way of promoting the exhibition whilst also having the potential to reach a large number of people. It’s of utmost importance that our work is easily accessible for everyone and so I ensured my work was available to view on all the networks available. Working alone I have continued to share behind the scene photographs of my project and research on various networks including Facebook, Twitter, my blog and the Img19.org website, which we as a class created to sustain and gain awareness of the degree show.

I drew upon my existing social networking and communication skills, which I have developed throughout university. Social media is free and has the potential to be shared and circulate between a large numbers of individuals. I feel that I should have begun sharing my works and creative processes sooner and more frequently. This would have assured a steady flow of interest within my project and me as a professional. Upon reflection I feel I could have marketed myself and the exhibition a lot better if I had managed my time more effectively. As mentioned earlier I should have aimed to post something daily or weekly for sustainability and in gaining momentum for the show.

The marketing team have continued to produce videos and teasers to promote the event. Again due to my job and management of time I have been able to fully participate in the production of these videos. However, I have attended various meetings and submitted work to feature within them. As well as this, I have created my own videos and published my own behind the scene footage to create a sense of hype for the project. The degree show has made me realise the difficulty of working within a team and meeting at times where everyone is available. I have and will continue in promoting and creating posters for the event alone due to clashing schedules but share everything with the team via email and social networks before anything is finalised.

I feel we as a team should have arranged and created a schedule which meant all members could attend. However, the marketing team have made everything available online as have I, proving that we can work together even if it’s digitally! I feel if I had managed my time more effectively and made more time for the marketing of the event more could have been achieved as a team member. However, using my own organisation, communication, social network and self-promotion skills I have promoted my own works and gained online attention for the exhibitions through behind the scene images, tweets and posts.

Looking forward- The remaining 500 words are for you to outline your 6-month plan for the future. It might be helpful for you to consider this from the following angles:

  • WHAT: which projects; which jobs. Include mention of anything you have definitely lined up as well as things you intend to initiate or continue by yourself
  • WHY: why this project/job is important. To you and/or in a wider context; professionally and artistically
  • WHO: who will you be working with, who would you like to work with, who or which institutions/companies/organisations would you like to target and at what stages in the project.
  • HOW: brief description of your methodology. Which existing skills you will use; which additional skills you may need to pick up or develop further.

Over the next six months I will carry on working as an assistant photographer for working professionals Edward Taylor of Digital Flow based in Coventry and Darren Key of Dark Lens based in Wolverhampton. Here I will continue to cover live music events, burlesque shows, weddings and studio fashion and portrait shoots as I have done for the past two years. I want to continue in building my portfolio and develop my Photoshop, lighting and studio skills in an environment I’m used to. This will not only be helpful when producing my own work but will make me more sufficient when wanting to pursue other job opportunities and assistant jobs. I want to improve my technical skills and build a portfolio I’m proud of to ensure I’m confident and ready when pursuing bigger companies and professionals. However, I do want to broaden my horizons beyond the midlands.

I hope to eventually find a sustainable job in London due to increased opportunities. Philip Banks, a friend and assistant photographer based in London, has worked with numerous magazines, fashion campaigns and world renowned photographers. Over the summer I’ve been offered the chance to work alongside Banks in the studio he works in regularly based in London. Here I will assist on various shoots for fashion magazines and campaigns, both mainstream and non-mainstream. This will be a great opportunity in gaining new contacts and building professional relationships which could lead to permanent work. Throughout university networking, communication skills and the capacity to use initiative when working alone as well as being able to work within a team have been the main skills I have acquired and will continue to use and develop during this opportunity. I will use and develop my current knowledge of studio equipment; lighting and set up as well as improve on my Photoshop skills.

As well as gaining new experiences as an assistant photographer I would like to continue with my personal project entitled “Gender Benders” a series of studio portraits of individuals that defy social and gender “norms”. I hope to revolutionize the representation of alternative identities in mainstream visual media by showing them in a more quiet and ambiguous light. Individuals have already begun to contact me after seeing my images on various social media sites and through word of mouth, which is hugely encouraging.

I may even create a book of my portraits which I may try and get published after some encouragement from my lecturer Jonathon Worth. I hope to share my images from the series with various fashion magazines and photographers whose works explore issues surrounding gender, identity and sexuality such as Rheims, Moroni or Davidmann as mentioned earlier. This could create assistant or apprentice opportunities or even simply feedback from those who I admire. Worth has also suggested that I enter some of my images into photography competitions including Taylor Wessing. This would be a great chance for me to present myself as a professional, give the series momentum and gain more public attention but what’s more it will make these alternative identities all the more mainstream and give them the positive exposure they deserve, thus encouraging Tran’s equality within society and encouraging diversity.

Reflective Summary of CU Exit Plan

Upon finishing my degree at Coventry University I will continue to work as an assistant photographer for Darren Key of Dark Lens based in Wolverhampton and Edward Taylor of Digital Flow based in Coventry. By sustaining these assistant jobs I am able to attain regular work ensuring a steady income, a strong working relationship with professional individuals and the opportunity to continue in building my own portfolio. Whilst continuing to assist for these well-established photography companies I will also be able to build upon and improve my communication, technical, lighting and Photoshop skills in an environment I feel comfortable to grow within before branching off to larger companies. As well as continuing to work with Dark Lens and Digital Flow I hope to assist photographers and other professionals I find truly inspiring and who I feel will improve my photographic skills and inform where I might situate myself and my work in the future.

I am deeply interested in issues surrounding gender, sexuality and identity and the notion that gender is free-floating. The often stigmatized and marginalized individuals whose identities move away from the rigid gender binary should be celebrated for their diversity, creativity and beauty, something which fashion is currently embracing. Fashion doesn’t just change. Fashion causes change. The increasing number of transgender models like Lea T in mainstream fashion campaigns or Drag Queens engulfing our TV screens; proves that gender “normalities” and “ideals” are in a state of a much welcomed transformation. These representations are helping to re-define gender beauty but what’s more gender “norms”.

As a result of this I would love to work with photographers, magazines and companies that work within the fashion industry that push gender boundaries and revel in exploring the “taboo”. I would love to assist photographers like Sarah Davidmann, Claudia Moroni or Bettina Rheims. All their work encompasses the personal and social, questioning the relationship between the individual and society. Davidmann, Moroni and Rheims have been transforming the stereotypical notions of Tran’s individuals in the United Kingdom through beautiful images which hold a strong political agenda. To work alongside such individuals will help inform my own project, broaden my skills and build relationships with higher status professionals who could perhaps lead me to bigger things. I would also like to approach magazines and companies like Vice, Pigeons and Peacocks and Love, all of which explore gender and sexuality continually.

I hope to continue my body of work entitled, “Gender Benders” which features a range of individuals which attest to the gender binary. Individuals have already contacted me wanting to participate in the project which is really encouraging and I will continue to search for more. I want the project to highlight the fluidity of gender and give those with alternative identities the representation they deserve. It’s important that trans individuals continue to be seen to help change society’s rigid perceptions of beauty and gender “norms” making for a more diverse and brighter future.

Task 3 Interview Reflection

Gender, sexuality and identity have been my focus over the last year and so when it came to choosing individuals to interview my motives were clear.

I wanted to interview professional photographers exploring these topics who have produced work I have found to be inspirational. It was important that their work evoked my passion and genuine interest for the benefit of my own work but also so I might grasp the interviewees’ attention and illicit their prompt response.

I interviewed Italian-born, London-based Claudia Moroni, whose series entitled “Animus/Anima” encompasses gender boundary breaking individuals and has been a source of inspiration to me. Due to the distance and clashing schedules it was easier to conduct the interview via email. I contacted Claudia via Facebook, her website and her personal email. This was efficient, straightforward and she responded the same day! In return for the interview I featured the interview online and included her websites and links, thus broadening her audience. This interview displayed the importance of online accessibility. Claudia is reachable via several easily available networks. Awareness of this as a professional will ensure I develop and capitalise on opportunities, such this one with Claudia.

As well as speaking to photographers producing inspirational works, I wanted to speak with others employed in my current role, as assistant photographers. Presently, I work in and around the Midlands but I aspire to assisting for bigger companies, brands and photographers in larger cities like London. I contacted a friend, photographer’s assistant Philip Banks, hoping to find what difficulties I may face and how I too could pursue and find assistant jobs in London. Again it was easier to conduct the interview via email. I created the questions first and forwarded them as a document. I felt this more satisfactory as it meant Philip could think and read through the questions before having to answer them off the cuff. With consideration I feel there are many more questions I could have asked which have been beneficial to me for when I begin hunting for assistant jobs. Nonetheless, the interview was elating and has definitely encouraged me to pursue this career path.

Finally, I wanted to interview an individual whose identity defies social norms. A male to female transsexual agreed to share her story. Gender is an increasingly sensitive topic and must be about the individual. This is their story, their identity, and I must at all times be aware that this project is not about me, but these inspirational individuals. I met the interviewee in her home and recorded our conversation. Keeping it informal, I prepared a few questions, which I emailed to her beforehand, allowing her to veto as she wished. Upon reflection I feel a more constructed outline for the interview would have benefitted but feel just recording and talking with the interviewee more casually made her feel more relaxed in sharing her life changing experiences.

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