Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from our culture and within artistic realms, and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. To Survive on this Shore combines photographs of transgender and gender-variant people over the age of fifty with interviews about their life experiences in regards to gender, identity, age, and sexuality and provides a nuanced view into the complexities of aging as a transgender person. By combining our experiences working as a photographer and social worker within the transgender community, we hope to create a project that is simultaneously highly personal and socially relevant.
Our project seeks to complicate the ways in which transgender older adults are portrayed and perceived in the arts, humanities and social sciences by combining formal portrait photographs with excerpts from biographical interviews. We intentionally seek out subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location.
We began this project in the summer of 2013 and have photographed and interviewed over 50 people to date in locations such as Boston, MA, Northampton, MA, Baltimore, MD, Washington D.C., Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI, New Orleans, LA, Jacksonville Beach, FL, Valrico, FL, Birmingham, AL, Detroit, MI, Minneapolis, MN, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Nww Orleans, LA, Little Rock, AR, Los Angeles, CA, Fresno, CA, San Diego, CA, San Francisco, CA, Palm Springs, CA, Bellingham, WA, Portland, OR, St. Louis, MO, Richmond, VA, and Williamsburg, VA.
Photographs and words are both powerful narrative tools. Especially in combination, they have the power to tell meaningful stories, elicit empathy, and promote social change. Our aim in combining these two forms of narrative is to tell more of the subject’s story than the photograph could on its own, encouraging a deeper and more meaningful engagement on the part of the viewer. We are attempting to call attention to a unique group of older adults that are often overlooked while also simultaneously portraying the universal human experience of identity and aging. Ultimately, it is our intention to publish a book of the photographs and interviews as well as to exhibit the work within fine art gallery and museum spaces, bridging both the social science and fine art realm. We desire to provide visibility to a community that is often overlooked, both because of their age as well as their gender, and to encourage empathy, understanding, and dialogue.