Hello, readers. For our first project spotlight, we’ll be focusing on local trans photographer Maxx Giffen’s The TRANSformation Project. Maxx’s project uses photography to document the physical, mental, and/or emotional changes that take place in the lives of the project’s transgendered subjects over a year, whether those changes involve hormones, therapy, surgery, or new habits. The photos are taken free of charge by Maxx, who is a professional photographer, and posted on the project page. The longterm plan is to create a gallery exhibit featuring these images. To that end, Maxx is reaching out to potential participants and supporters alike through an open call for subjects and a crowdfunding campaign. Maxx was also kind enough to answer a few questions we had:
Sarah: What made you choose photography as a medium (for this project and/or for your career)?
Maxx: I have always been drawn to photography. I initially was interested in capturing the beauty of a fleeting moment; however, with this project I wanted to use photography to tell a story. My goal is to capture the personal journey of each trans participant as they embark upon a year of change. I want each photograph to mark not only the physical state of the subject, but their relationship with their body, as well as their personality.
Sarah: How would you respond to criticism of the ideas behind the project?
I have been lucky enough to receive nothing but positive feedback regarding the project. Of course, there are people who may not see the value of the project. In response, I would like to make it clear that two things are very important to me. The first, is my belief that everyone has the right to love themselves. In regards to trans individuals, and my experiences as a trans individual, it is very difficult to love oneself when your body does not reflect the person who you are on the inside. I want this project to help the participants, as well as the audience, to see the beauty of their body, and to shed the misconception that there are only two types of bodies (male with a penis, and female with breasts and a vagina). My second point of interest is the fact that ignorance breeds hate. I want to create a forum for discussion in an attempt to educate the audience on trans issues and hopefully dispel some misconceptions and stigmas associated with the trans community.
Sarah: What would you say to cisgendered* people who’d like to be allies and support this project and the trans movement overall but don’t want to speak over trans voices?
Maxx: Your third question is a very important one, although I think it’s quite difficult to navigate because I cannot presume to be the voice of the trans community. My answer to the question will not correspond with a lot of other trans individual’s answers. I welcome all support, trans or otherwise. In my experience, trans allies are an incredible support system for trans individuals. Not all trans individuals live in an area where they can be in contact with other people in the trans community, so they must rely on support from trans allies. I think the most important thing to remember as a trans ally is not to make assumptions. The trans community is incredibly diverse, and one’s preferences when it comes to things like gender identity, sexual orientation, pronouns, et cetera, are extremely complex. As far as “not speaking over trans voices” goes, I would say that trying to boost the voice of a trans individual would be the best way to go. We live in the age of social media, so that could involve retweeting a tweet from a trans individual instead of making your own similar tweet, or sharing Facebook content with the same context.
Thanks to Maxx for answering our questions! We love to see art and activism coming together so naturally (not to mention how expressive the portraits are). If you’d like to see more of the photos and learn more about how to get involved, whether as a participant or a supporter, you can visit maxwellgiffenphotography.com/thetransformationproject.
*A cisgendered person is an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one they were assigned at birth.
P.S. If you’d like to see more content from The Quilliad Press, please consider backing our Kickstarter (we’re a staff pick!). In addition to our new project spotlights, we post small press book reviews, artist profiles, parrot poetry, and coverage of local arts and literary events. We also publish a literary and arts journal, The Quilliad, and are planning a line of chapbooks.