I chose to celebrate trans women in my photography to help raise awareness around the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. I also wanted to do this to help contribute to Transgender Awareness campaign; a two-week event culminating in the Transgender Day of Remembrance on the 20th November. Worldwide, the life expectancy of trans women is thirty-five years old. Trans women of colour in particular face the bulk of this violence.
It was important that this project represent a diverse range of women. I cast a wide net and sought outspoken advocates for Transgender rights and visibility. Shon Faye, Munroe Bergdorf, Paris Lees and KUCHENGA helped me find this group of women, all of whom are powerful voices within the trans community.
I teamed up with florist James Buswell to create sixteen bespoke floral arrangements for each woman. I love flowers because they are symbolic of strength, extravagance, femininity, rebirth and beauty. The semiotics accounts for only part of my love for them. They are able to breathe life into the most basic portraits. They create complexity and depth to the images and provide a dynamism that draws the viewer in. I love the physical process of attaching them to the body. It can be awkward, in a light hearted and humorous way and a good icebreaker to get to know someone more intimately. It can help build trust between the photographer and the model.
It was important to me that I represented these women in a way that respectfully showed who they are and how they want to be seen. Through this series I portray these women as strong, beautiful, graceful, sexy and happy. The variety of floral arrangements and colours, compliment their shape and beauty. Umber Ghauri, the immensely talented and principled Head makeup artist of Brown Beauty Standards, played a crucial role in making these women feel beautiful and powerful in their own skin.
Together, we produced an empowering and positive narrative for this project. I hope it provides a non-exploitative visibility. It’s my small part in amplifying the many strong voices of these women and calls for an end to the violence they face.
Munroe Bergdorf is a model and social activist. Best known for channelling her unique blend of honesty and openness, the transgender model is raising awareness of social issues that are affecting thousands of people across the world today. Via public speaking, digital and mainstream media Munroe shares her lived experience talking about sensitive subjects and topics some perceive as ‘taboo’; challenging stereotypes on gender, race, diversity and sexuality. Munroe regularly appears on national and international television news to comment on race, diversity and LGBT+ stories as well as contributing to numerous publications including The Guardian, Them Magazine, Evening Standard.
KUCHENGA is a writer, an agitator an avid consumer of all culture high and low. She is a Black trans feminist whose work sparkles with vivacity and originality. She writes for Dazed & Confused, Wear Your Voice, Gal Dem, Hiskind and Efniks.com A member of Black Lives Matter UK, the Bent Bars Collective and Sisters Uncut she lives in London and can often be found frollicking in the park with her dog Nene. She enjoys cosmetics, Zumba and soy lattés.
Charlie Craggs is an author, activist and founder of the award-winning campaign Nail Transphobia. In 2016 she was ranked #1 on the Observer's New Radicals List of social innovators in Britain, and in 2017 she was the recipient of the Marie Claire Future Shaper Award. She has recently released her first book To My Trans Sisters- a collection of letters of sisterly advice from trailblazing trans women for girls going through transition.
Faye Dickinson is a London based social media influencer. Being from the Middle East and a trans woman shouldn't be an impossible mix, but at the moment it is still a huge taboo. Faye had to make a choice; become the woman she always knew she was, and face losing the ones closest to her, who gave her life - or suffocate in a body which didn't belong to her.
- “When I knew I was in the wrong body, I knew I had a long road and fight ahead of me for equality, for peace, and for the right to just be what I am; a woman. Transgender or not, a woman. Nothing is impossible, and I believe that one day it's not going to be so difficult to be from "anywhere" and still be whoever you want to be.”
Chloe Fiilani is a Black feminist, Poet, Performance artist and Public Speaker. She has performed at Tate Britain at a Late at Tate. Spoke at UAL feminist society and performed and curated an art and music event for Black women cis, trans and Queer called Swaying Feels wit Blk Sirens.
Rhyannon Styles is a performer, writer and public speaker. In June 2017 she released her memoir 'The New Girl: A Trans Girl Tells It Like It Is' and she regularly contributes to i-D, ELLE & Sunday Times Style magazine. Styles has performed all over the world and continues to use her platform to being awareness to transgender issues.
Shon Faye is a writer, artist and comedian. She is Editor at Large at Dazed, a regular contributor to Novara Media and has written for The Guardian, The Independent, VICE and many other magazines about sexuality, LGBT politics and mental health. Her short films have been on display in the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. She also campaigns with several organisations including Stonewall and Amnesty International for LGBT equality and women's issues
Paris Lees is an award-winning equality campaigner, described as “the voice of a generation” by i-D – and the most influential LGBT person in Britain by the Independent. She is the first openly trans person to appear on the BBC’s flagship political debate show Question Time and regularly provides a rare working class perspective in mainstream media. She has fronted campaigns for Diesel and Wrangler. Her memoir, published by Penguin, is due in 2018.
Photographer: Eivind Hansen, UK
Florist: James Buswell, UK
Make-Up & Hair: Umber Ghauri, UK
(MUA & Hair for Chloe Fiilani, Munroe Bergdorf, KUCHENGA, Charlie Craggs, Faye Dickinson & Shon Faye)
Make-Up & Hair: Benjamin Ip, UK
(MUA & Hair for Paris Lees)
Make-Up & Hair: Billie Butch, UK
(MUA & Hair for Rhyannon Styles)