Tag Archives: photography

Exclusive – Photographs of Transgender Women from Sydney in the 1970’s

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A couple of years ago I stumbled across a very interesting book which I managed to purchase for a steal, not realizing how rare it would become. The book is “As a Woman” by Barry Kay, and it is a photographic essay book of transgender women of Sydney, Australia, who were photographed from 1974-1975. Kay, a stage designer who was a fair hand at photography, had many encounters with the Sydney transgender community in the early 1970’s, and he collected photographs which he took of both crossdressers and transsexuals in their private spaces, at home, with friends, at work, and about the town.

The book is made up of 80 photographs of more than 60 different women, all of them in black and white save for a sepia print which makes up the cover photograph. The photographs are often shot with a soft filter or soft focus, which either helps soften the images of the women, or else serves to create an air of gentle unreality to the photographs.

I selected 16 photographs from the book to highlight here on Transas City. Each photograph is scaled for easy display online, but if you right-click and save the file you will see the high-resolution scan.

Barry Kay – Transgender Women of 1970’s Sydney in “As a Woman”

The Transgender Women of Cuba in Living Color

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I recently purchased a wonderful photographic book titled “TransCuba” by New York-based photographer Mariette Patty Allen. The book contains 80 photographs of transgender women and men and the spaces they live and work in within Cuba, and brings to focus in sharp, living color a tiny window into their lives.

The photographs tell a tale of an incredibly strong people, who not only must survive in the third-world conditions of Cuba, but must also survive as transgender people. Unfortunately, most of the subjects happen to be prostitutes, as the discrimination which they face denies them most other occupations. And even in the “Socialist paradise” of Cuba, one must work to have any kind of life over a bare sustenance level, especially if they are supporting a family.

The photographs are reminiscent of those of Christer Strömholm and his photographs of French transwomen prostitutes from the 1950’s and 1960’s, but where in that case the black and white media gave a sense of unreality to the photographs, in this case the bold color of the images does the opposite. I’ve included some samples of the photographs from the book so you can get a feel for the scope and detail of Ms. Allen’s work. You can see them at the link below.

Mariette Pathy Allen – The Transwomen of Cuba

Highly Interesting Photos of the Kansas City CD/T Scene, and an Upcoming Local Event

PrivateBirthdayParty0Unknown, 1958

I was pointed to an article in New York Magazine by an acquaintance, which highlights something which I think is very cool. The subject is the discovery and a project to exhibit an incredibly rare collection of photos of the crossdressing, drag, and transgender scene in Kansas City in the 1950’s and 1960’s. From the original article:

In 2006, artist Robert Heishman was poking around a Kansas City salvage yard, looking for material for an undergraduate documentary class, when he stumbled upon a slide carousel labeled “Jack’s Slides: Chicago and Kansas City.”

“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2. “I didn’t really know what I was purchasing, but I wanted to have time to sit with them a little longer,” he explains.

Two years later, Heishman’s longtime friend Michael Boles was helping a friend move into a new house in Kansas City — which, as he describes it, was right around the corner from the drag clubs that were vibrant in the ’50s and ’60s. He came across a shoebox of slides that turned out to be quite similar to the ones Heishman had found at the scrapyard. “When we got them together and paired them up, it was kind of amazing,” Boles reflects. “Some of them are even from the same parties.” The resulting collection — titled “Private Birthday Party,” after the signs that used to appear on club doors when drag balls were taking place — includes over 200 images and provides a vivid glimpse of Kansas City’s early drag-ball culture. Heishman and Boles have since brought on Emily Henson to help with background research; together, the three believe they’re close to identifying the photographer.

PrivateBirthdayParty1Unknown, December 1964
PrivateBirthdayParty3Unknown, December 1964

A first peek at these rare photos can be found on the project site, Private Birthday Party. I confess that when I saw the wonderful old photos complete with their classy kitsch I let out a squeal of joy which raised my wife’s eyebrows.
PrivateBirthdayParty2The Colony, 1959

What’s more, there is a debut party and fundraiser for the project which will be held on April 17, 2014, at the Guild in downtown Kansas City. Yours truly is intending to attend, and I hope to be able to ask some questions directly of the folks involved in this project. If anyone reading this wants to say hi, show up and look for the funny little lady with her camera.

PrivateBirthdayParty4The Colony, November 1968
Click here for a direct link to the photo gallery in its current form. I very much hope that they will be posting all of the photographs soon, and in higher resolution as well.

Art Imitates Life For Transgender Artists

Rhys Ernst is transitioning from female to male. Zackary Drucker is transitioning from male to female. Both are in love, and both are telling the story of their relationship through the transition process by a photo series, which they’ve titled “Relationship.”

At the site linked below you can find an interview with the artists, as well as a slideshow from their project. Within the interview, I found this quote right near the lead compelling:

Drucker: “The amazing thing about being a human is that we are transformative material, and we change from one moment to the next. Being transgender is a more visible manifestation of that because we are literally changing the way we are presenting ourselves to the world.”

Ernst: “The photographs sort of chronicle this amazing crystallizing of an identity we had always longed for.”

I really like that concept – that human beings are transformative materials. Not only do many (but not all) of the cells of our body constantly replace themselves via normal metabolic processes, changing even cisgender bodies constantly, but age, wear, our own actions, and the actions of others transform our bodies as well.

Our minds are of course what transform the most about us. When combined with our ever-changing bodies, the sum is a slowly different person to the world each and every day.

Art Imitates Life For Transgender Artists | New Hampshire Public Radio.

Visible Bodies, Photo Exhibition By Wolfgang, Features Transgender Narratives Retold

Transgender_Bodies
A highlight on a San Diego photography exhibition featuring transgender stories told through creative photography. There is a 26-slide show at the bottom of the article. Note that some images are NOT WORK-SAFE if you decide to click on them. I thought the photo of Dayamis (slide 22) was very simple and beautiful.

Visible Bodies, Photo Exhibition By Wolfgang, Features Transgender Narratives Retold.

Collection of Transgender Photos from the 1950’s

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Please note that some of these are NOT work-safe.

Christer Strömholm was Swedish photographer who lived in Paris in the 1950’s and who was well-known by the transgender and crossdressing community there. He photographed members of the community and published a book of his photos, and many of them can be found at the link below.

Galerie VU – Christer Strömholm series.