We are taking a Close Up look at some of the projects we are exhibiting in Everything I Ever Learnt at Cambridge University with Art at the ARB, sharing more of a behind the scenes insight, and the bigger picture.
Shutter Hub member Gemma Taylor is a documentary and charity photographer and writer based in Macclesfield, UK. She is particularly interested in long-term documentary projects, collaborating with individuals to share personal stories connected to a social or human rights issue.
I first met Bea the night before Miss Transgender UK, down in Brighton in November 2017. We’ve been working together since. The project title reflects Bea’s constant wrangle in ‘having’ to define herself against other people’s expectations of a model, a pageant queen, a transwoman, and a woman full stop.
Many people, whether close family or strangers, think they know something about her, presume what she’s like, and have a view on how she should live her life. The original idea was to share Bea’s personal experiences to challenge stereotypes and tell her story from her point of view.
We are all defined to some extent by people’s reactions towards us. What we didn’t know when we started working together was that one person’s feelings towards Bea were going to feature so prominently. Donna, who she’s now engaged to, came back into her life last year. Bea first went out with Donna when she was Ben and they reconnected after she won the pageant. Donna’s support bolsters Bea so that she has the strength to continue enjoying taking centre stage when the opportunity presents, as well as the knocks that come with it.
Not all transgender people want to be an activist or “public figure” as Bea describes herself, but being thrust under the spotlight is not always a choice. If you’re called out in the ladies’ loos for having a deep voice, refused entrance to female changing rooms, thrown out of home, attacked in the street, and have work gigs cancelled all on account of simply being trans, a personal journey is no longer private anyway.
Bea navigates other people’s take or journey, on her life, largely with warmth, patience and humour, but also some frustration and pain. At the end of it all, regardless of the number of opposing, and often fabricated views, she is still Bea, just Bea.
Find out about the BeaYourself support groups here.
You can visit Gemma’s website here.
To find out more about Gemma’s work, see her Shutter Hub portfolio here.
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