My name is Skylar and I’m a graduating senior at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. As a studio art major finishing up my degree this semester, I really wanted to do my senior project on something I am extremely passionate about. I have been calling it “Re-Humanizing the Trans-Masculine Community” and what that essentially means is I am attempting to create a photographic and written diary of those who identify on the transgender spectrum, leaning towards the masculine side (originally, I was going to right transmale or transman - however, this would exclude many people who identify as trans*, being female born and transitioning somewhere away from that, so I am using trans-masculine as a more inclusive term.) As a person who identifies as trans-masculine, I hope that participants feel comfortable sharing their lives and identities with me. Many photography projects of the transgender community that I have seen (such as by L. Weingarten and Katherine Opie) have honest and supportive intentions, but tend to focus on an “otherness” or the spectacle of the transgender body and identity. I am more interested in the intersections of a trans-masculine identity with that of the overall human identity and condition; essentially, I would like to create a re-humanizing project of the trans-masculine community!
So far, I have sent 13 participants a disposable camera with return mailing supplies – all I asked is that they take pictures of themselves, their day-to-day lives, their communities, houses, family, hanging out, school, what they do, where they work, where they go, anything that involves their life really – and send the camera back to me undeveloped. Incredibly, I was gifted with generous donations (including a grant from Skidmore’s “Student Opportunity Funds”) as well as generous offers from participants who could financially afford sending their own camera and writings; as of now, I have 27 participants sending their own disposable cameras. I cover the costs of developing the cameras, and will post them on a Flickr and this Tumblr site so that they can see/have their own copies of them and others can peruse as well. For those who would like, I am including their name/initials/location/pseudonym so that they will not only be able to find theirs, but they will also have recognition that they took them. Others have chosen to remain anonymous, which is absolutely fine as well.
The written component of this project is also critical to my goal of re-humanizing a community that has been often objectified or de-humanized. I asked for participants to write on any paper smaller than 4x5 inches (so as to not overshadow the prints in my installation) with any sort of black ink their thoughts about their own identity and life and being – it does not have to focus around a trans-identity at all, but it could if they would like. Other folks have written about their pride, their family, their spirituality, their favorite hobbies, coming out… really anything. Simultaneously, if they took a really meaningful picture on the camera and wanted to remark on specifically that image, they could indicate which photograph it was so that the writing and image could be paired in the installation/published work. They can write as much or as little as they would like, using multiple sheets as “journal entries” as it would be – my main goal is to have their own handwriting and thoughts to accompany a view into their life. While there are things that photographs can say that words cannot, there are also many things that words can say that photographs cannot; my goal was have this project be as open, honest, and pure as possible in its representation of multiple lives.
This is meant to be personal, like a diary as I mentioned. I am participating as well, and am looking forward to seeing the connections between all of our lives and communities while we all fall under the same community as well. Diversity is a beautiful thing, connection is extraordinary, and educating those who may be misinformed about the life of a trans-masculine person is a powerful movement. I am infinitely thankful for those who have participated in order to create this body of work, and am hoping to publish this as a book after graduating; ideally, I will also continue this project after graduating should I receive more funding and interest continues!