An afternoon with Wendy

“Ok I’m a human being, I’m from a planet called earth, and someone put me here about 47 years ago.”

Wendy is Jennifer’s house mate , she suffers from a personality disorder and has been living as a woman for 2 and a half years. I have got to know her since last September’ for the first few times I went to her house to photograph Jennifer, she would prefer to keep out of the photographs. However, very quickly she wanted to be part of my photography project as she got to know me and saw the images that were produced.

I have seen her sporadically over the past academic year, on average about once a month. Sometimes I take photographs, sometimes we talk. When I go to see her next, I need to record  an interview of some form – like I have with Jennifer.

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Please see the contact sheets for the colour versions, but I love the tones and textures that come out, particularly through the monochrome.

Wendy likes to send images through Facebook of what she is doing. For example, she loves gardening and owns many exotic trees and flowers. Above is an orange from her tree and a flower in her garden. It is interesting to have this insight, as it is not something I do in my day to day life. But Wendy does not know many people and the online world is way for her to connect to people.

 

 

Wendy is nocturnal, spending most of the hours of the day in bed, she gets up in the evenings to play trance music on online platforms. She sends me images like above quite often. To the right are her prized shoes, she is over six foot but still loves to wear high heels. Below is an image of the sky, she is obsessed with the weather and likes to follow the weather patterns and news intensively.

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Cardiff shoot with Jennifer

DSCF3711JessieEdwardsThomascopyright2015

Jennifer is a transgender woman who contacted me via an online Facebook group connected to MTUK. She is an elder person, who is very open in the online community. She is from America, having spent a lot of time as a lecturer in south America, she is currently living her life in Morocco, dressing up in the attire of a woman in Moroccan culture. This worries me, as she could end up in a very dangerous situation if she is not careful.
At the time I went to meet her in Cardiff, she did not have  anywhere to live and had spent the past year floating from person to person, across the country.


I know that she is a sex worker and from my meeting with her, seemed that she had many issues. This is two main problems in the transgender community – mental health issues and discrimination within work places and the assumption that trans people are kinks, fetishes and belong in the sex world.
These are important issues to highlight, but I feel this is something I cannot just delve into… I want to take time to build connections and research certain topics thoroughly.
Below are some of the less indecent images that Jennifer puts up on Facebook.

If I am being honest, I am concerned about working with her.  She had a tendency to manically talk and she was very self obsessed. This was very hard to work with and at the end of the shoot, I felt she had something she wanted, but it was not the end result I had wished for. I was trying to steer clear from staged, high performance photographs but this is what had happened.


Jennifer had arranged to use a friends hairdressers as she had described, but when I arrived, the small hairdressers in Cardiff had an entourage of around six people to dress and make Jennifer up. I did not realise it would have been this extreme!
From the shoot, I have made connections with the hair dresser and they wish to use me as a photographer for trans events in the future.


The mannequins, butterfly’s and reflections all  highlight the narrative of my project – transformation, identity, ideals and the unobtainable.


Please see contact sheets for further images.

What I learnt from the pageants – professionally as a photographer

Working with the organiser was quite hard, she had no skills or experience in the profession of organising events and it reflected in the management of it. I have learnt no matter what is discussed in person, to have clear contracts and set boundaries. To explain expenses and payment etc are different – which is not something I thought I would have to do. I have come to the point with my photography where exposure is no longer a payment for me! It is amazing that UK wide spread papers and film productions working for channel 4 / bbc still think it is Ok to offer this is payment. But I am learning to stay in control and communicate my pay etc. The positive outcome of this was being paid for my articles and images that were published in the likes of bbc, vice etc.

 

 

What I learnt from the pageant photographys

 

The three events were a great way to develop my transgender project and network within the community to find other people to work with in terms of my photography.

I found the whole process a rather bizarre, over-hyped environment where transgender women were, no matter what the pageant claimed, trying to conform to a patriarchal stereotype of what a woman should be. The more ‘womanly’ the transgender person appeared, the more likely they were to progress through the pageant. The competitive nature of the pageant created friction  and tension between contestants, where I personally feel, within a minority of marginalised people, there should be support and care being developed amongst the group.
I do see the other side, whereby, this is a platform for transgender women to take a stand, tell their story and for people to listen. The media related to the documentary that was created has been sensational, but it has not always been the positive coverage that the community hoped for.

It has been fascinating to observe the pageant, the desires and hopes of the transgender women to be accepted, adored and validated as ‘real’ women. It is a human instinct to feel we belong and are correct in our behaviour in society.

Since the Pageant I have worked with two women and I am in constant contact with numerous contestants, for research and possible future shoots. I hope to further my work with them, getting to know the off-stage individual, behind the glitter and glam.