Anima Animus: The Genesis (or how I shot a lot just to find out what I was meant to do)


It’s been almost a year since I last wrote on this blog, I’m clearly not getting any better at keeping it updated.

My last entry described the research process behind Anima Animus, a long-term photography project on gender that I’m still working on at the moment.

Just to recap, I was commissioned by Vol De Nuits gallery in Marseille to take a series of photos around the theme of borderline gender for my first solo exhibition, I put an ad online looking for models and, after doing some research, I started collaborating with people with trans* histories here in London.

The first person who got back to my ad was Jamie, who was just about to start medical transition at the time .
This was back in July 2012 when I wasn’t quite sure how to develop the project and I was still thinking in terms of “androgyny”, so the idea was to initially take  his portrait in the studio and eventually to document his transition by photographing him both in the studio and on location.

jamie01colour01jamie03 (1)

We did a couple of shoots, but we quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to get enough work done in time for the exhibition if I only focused on one person.

I ditched the whole androgyny idea (that was naive and silly anyway) and I decided instead to collaborate with trans* people, photographing them both in the studio and on location and interviewing them.

Thanks to Jamie, I met LGW, a photographer and video maker who runs The Test Shot with him, and I was able to photograph them in the studio too.


LGW is a very busy and active person, always running around, and it proved impossible to organise a shoot at home with them, so I started thinking that, if I wanted to create a series of portraits for the exhibition in a timely manner, maybe it’d be better to just focus on photographing everyone once.

In the meantime, I was approached by email by a really lovely genderqueer person, Caz, who had seen my old ad online and was wondering if I was still interested in photographing “androgynous” people.
We arranged a shoot in the studio where I played with lighting and poses to have achieve both a “classic” portraits and  more graphic shots.

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When I got the negs back from the lab we were both quite pleased with the images and we decided to try another portrait on location.

That was a disaster. I normally shoot with natural light when I got to people’s places, but that day all hell broke loose: the sky was BLACK, it was raining cats and dogs and in Caz’s flat there was no light whatsoever. I stupidly decided to shoot with a new camera I never used before for the location portraits and half of the time the flash wouldn’t synch.

 caz01 caz02

Caz was extremely patient, but I wanted to kick myself for being so stupid.

Feeling that the project was lacking someone on the feminine side of the spectrum, I contacted a stunning trans lady who I had seen on a tv show and somehow managed to trace on facebook (I hope this doesn’t make me sound like some terrible stalker) to ask her if she was keen to be photographed for the project.

She agreed enthusiastically because she’s into photography as well, but I made the mistake of arranging the same lighting set up I used for people on the masculine side of the spectrum and, to use an euphemism, she lost a lot of enthusiasm (this kind of lighting isn’t exactly flattering for the ladies, especially if they’re over 30, and she absolutely hated the photos).
I’m not keen on showing photos without people’s consent, so this particular set has only ever been seen by me and her and I’m not going to upload it here.

We also did a shoot at her place, but it didn’t work out that well either, so at that point I was pretty much set on the idea of taking a series portraits just in the studio.

I took a lot of them, both in colour and black and white, but I was particularly keen on the colour ones (see below)

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Unfortunately they didn’t look “arty” enough for the gallery and I was encouraged to try a different approach.

But that’s for another post.


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