jane & debbie

brief : Whilst it was the street that introduced me to the genre of documentary photography, I have recently realised the necessity to move away from this environment if I am to develop as a photographer. The most significant and demanding project of my career thus far was designed to challenge every aspect of my image making and consideration of the medium.

Jane & Debbie are post-operative male to female transsexuals living together, in a relationship. After meeting them in 2003 and learning more about them, my respect for them began to grow, and I realised my friendship with them was beginning to challenge my understanding of gender, identity and sexuality as well as my preconceptions of gender dysphoria.

I decided that it would be appropriate to communicate these concepts through a documentary photography project. Jane and Debbie agreed, and for a period of six months, I photographed them living their particularly normal lives in a variety of everyday situations.

Initially, I photographed them in their home, and then sought alternative everyday situations. About three months into the project, I found myself struggling with locations and material. On the advice of influential photographer Del La Grace Volcano (a FTM transsexual) I returned to the home setting:

"I have also photographed people in their homes and like the intimacy and mystery this setting can provide. What I found in your photos though did not give me any greater insight into these people; who they are, how they conduct their lives, or what they are about, there is something about them that feels sanitised for the camera."

After dismissing the home too soon into the project, I later realised that this was key to progression of the work. On the advice of another photographer I abandoned my digital SLR and started shooting on medium format (for the first time in my life) - to challenge me yet further.

The images displayed here demonstrate the various methods and approaches used by myself to represent this complicated and unique story. My aim was to capture the normality of their lives in an effort to challenge the the viewer's prejudices in the same way that my own have been challenged.

I now feel better prepared for future documentary photography projects, but I intend to return to this project in the near future to realise its full potential. Jane & Debbie have recently had a civil partnership which I photographed. I will soon be adding some images from the day to this project which will possibly give it some closure.

influences : Mariette Pathy Allen / Loren Cameron / Del La Grace Volcano / Nan Goldin / Diane Arbus / Documentary Photography

equipment : Contax G2, 21mm Biogon Lens, 45mm Planar Lens, Ilford HP5 documentary photography film
equipment : Canon EOS 20D, 10-22mm EF Lens, 420-EX Flash
equipment : Fujifilm 6x9, Ilford HP5 documentary photography film

keywords : documentary photography, photo, photos, picture, pictures, identity, gender, transgender, transsexual, Nan Goldin The Other Side, Loren Cameron Body Alchemy, Del La Grace Volcano, Della Grace Volcano, Mariette Pathy Allen The Gender Frontier, Diane Arbus, documentary photography