Simply put, becoming transgender in the United States is a horrifying time, and Republicans regularly pass harmful laws in more than 12 states, including Texas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. That said, artists and writers such as Chris Malcolm Berg, Torrey Peters, and Turmarin have an understanding of what gender is and how it shapes our lives and identities. We are also fortunate to live in an era of complicated, transgender and non-binary creativity.
Photographer Soraya Zaman has devoted himself to his work over the past few years in order to capture the personal experience of translife, especially transgender, in arresting the portraits summarized in the 2019 book. American Boys Currently being the subject of a solo exhibition in Melbourne. trend I recently talked to Zaman about their exhibitions, photobooks, casting processes, and how to create a safe and inclusive space for the individuals they take pictures of.
trend: How did this multimedia project come about?
Solaya Zaman: I started the project in 2016 and had a very humble beginning to explore the identity and appearance for men. A keen interest in this subject was consistent with my quest for gender identity in terms of being non-binary. I did that by exploring the relationship between other people and their gender identity throughout the transmasculine spectrum. I realized that the more people I met and took pictures, the more I needed to share these stories. Especially dating back to 2016, especially in the media for men and men … I didn’t see it much. It goes back to the old adage of seeing yourself reflected in the world, especially as a queer. When you’re growing, you don’t see many weird people represented in the media, television and advertising, except during the pride month when everyone jumps into rainbow capitalism. But there has never been a more realistic and honest portrayal of what transgender life looks like.
How did you cast the subject?
I found everyone through social media, mainly Instagram. Most of them were already raw and vulnerable and were open to sharing stories online in public. That’s what I’m looking for. Obviously I didn’t want to invade people’s privacy or expose people in other ways. Ready for. That’s the beauty of Instagram. You can find people and dive really deep through their posts and stories.
How do you create a safe and respectful starting environment for subjects who may be at different stages of their gender journey?
In this particular project I went and met everyone. The goal was to be invited to their home and make them feel comfortable. Before taking out the camera, I sat down with them and said, “Tell me about you. How did you get here? What was your childhood like?” I all of them. We recorded the conversation on the iPhone, but much of what people shared was about growing and expanding their gender, so there was a lot we could relate to. It really formed a kind of bond and trust. I was not an outsider dictating the story. That was also part of my story. It was really supportive. I asked them to choose the place where they wanted to take a picture and ran around by car. It feels like you’re hanging out and talking or taking a picture, and you feel the intimacy that you see in the picture.
Is there anything you especially want people to take away from these photos?
I wanted to evoke the idea that masculinity is only for Sith men and take on the challenge.I always think about the languages of boys and girls [binary].. It’s just a language, we’re more than a language. Gender is bigger than that.
Zaman’s photo installation “Reconstruct (the) Normativity” Fed Square in Melbourne..