A new photo series, “The Transcending Gender Project,” tells a visual story about transgender and gender-nonconforming people that is lacking in popular media, says Syracuse, N.Y.-based trans photographer Rhys Harper.
“So often, the focus of discussion is about bodies and what is underneath our clothes,” he explains further on his Indiegogo fundraiser, “instead of who we are and what we have to offer the world.”
His striking series of black-and-white portraits draw on environment, props, and body language to express each subject’s personality and accomplishments. In one photo, comedian Julia laughs next to a microphone; in another, high school student and musician Jesse holds a guitar and a contemplative expression; in yet another, activist Jennifer peers confidently over pews, in reference to her headline-grabbing request that a homophobic church live up to its sign that read “Jesus would stone homos.”
Ultimately, Harper hopes to both educate people about the diversity of trans lives, and to inspire trans communities to focus on common ground rather than divisions, he told The Huffington Post. “I think we are a passionate group of people and sometimes differing opinions collide. ... I want to lay aside everything and just capture people. That’s it. No politics, no opinions."
While “Transcending Gender” was originally commissioned by a local art gallery, Harper sees potential to expand the project nationwide. He started his Indiegogo campaign to raise funds so he can hit the road and photograph trans and gender-nonconforming people in as many cities as he can, with aspirations of ultimately turning the images into a book. His website invites potential subjects to contact him if they’d like to be photographed, and he reports that he’s received hundreds of interested emails.
“We are doctors, students, parents, bankers, brokers, musicians, photographers, children, and teachers. We are free spirits, creative souls, world travelers, cat rescuers, and performers. We are lovers, fighters, hopers, dreamers, movers, and shakers,” he summarizes. “These photographs intend to capture us in ways that celebrate who we are.”
See some of the photos in the following pages.