After her decades’ long work exploring androgyny, the photographer Bettina Rheims saw a shift in the way cultures view gender, and she was inspired by transgendered youth. As transgender issues are only recently beginning to receive the attention they deserve, her 2012 project Gender Studies aims to give voice to the most intimate thoughts on the gendered self. Using Facebook, she reached out to any and all people who “felt different” in regards to gender; with responses from those who identified as male, female, both, or neither, the diversity of her subjects is staggering, and they serve to remind us that feeling “different” may be the only thing that unites us all, regardless of our genders. In the series’s original show, the artist played audiotapes of her sitters, allowing their own voices to inform each work.
The portraits reveal strength in vulnerability; the bareness of the nude form does not speak to intrusive questions about specific physical characteristics but rather to a more meaningful revelation of selfhood through movement. As pure white clothes melt from bodies, all definitions and judgements give way to ethereal and blossoming beauty, elevating the spirit of the body and deeming theoretical or impersonal definitions of gender irrelevant. Simultaneously humanizing and worshipful, this is portraiture at its most powerful, lending the human form and soul a more murkily transformative power. One would hope only that in future projects, the artist would chose to include a more diverse set of subjects. What do you think of the images?
Images via Feature Shoot