The Other Team – Transitions #Germaine
Having one's continuing identity and gender transformation chronicled does not happen every day. Having those moments visually translated by one of Johannesburg's best photographers and artists is extra-ordinary. I've been fortunate enough to have my continuing exploration and performance of my gender identity and playfulness with the queer photographed and recorded by Nadine Hutton, better known as @2point8photo on Twitter and Tumblr.
Dreads – Transitions #Germaine
Not in my wildest dreams did I ever envision becoming a photographer’s muse, let alone envision finding it a joyful and liberating experience. I’ve always hated having photographs taken of me. It always felt like all my awkwardness, insecurities and perceived ugliness were being magnified for everyone to see. It’s difficult enough feeling those things within one’s own body – having those things caught on camera was just too much for me.
Lose the Dreads – Transitions #Germaine
I have always been afraid of taking up space in the world, making myself as small as possible. The idea of owning the space around me and fully being present and actually having an impact on those around me has always been agonisingly terrifying. I suffered from acute social phobia up until my late 20s: answering the phone, speaking to people, ordering from waiters, eating in public, being noticed in any physical way – these were all excruciating for me.
Shaved – Transitions #Germaine
Dude – Transitions #Germaine
This shift was most apparent to me in my work with Nadine Hutton. Firstly, she has photographed my evolution in terms of identity and gender transition over the span of two years – from 2010. Secondly, through the vehicle of art, the photographs visually tell the story of my journey from art object, to collaborator, to artist – all three roles playing an integral part in my expression of self, my expression of gender.
Taking Flight – Transitions #Germaine
First Day of Work
The series of photographs by Nadine, ‘Transitions #Germaine,’ part of her larger ‘Transitions #Joburg’ work, saw a leap in my relation to art from the portraits taken of me by Edser. I was no longer being photographed as a victim and survivor, I was being photographed as an empowered woman taking her identity into her own hands. And the more comfortable I became, the more I started not only passively being photographed, but actively collaborating with Nadine in the creation of the image. It was through Nadine’s lens that I became able to perform my identity and gender – discovering it, playing with it, renegotiating it, performing the boundaries I was crossing and destroying on a daily basis.
Being the subject and co-creator of her photographs over such an extended period was a wonderfully surreal and confidence-giving experience. The fact that the decisions I was making about my own identity and my gender identity were now being transformed into art, made each of these decisions that much more momentous, each of them becoming a rite of passage on the remarkable journey that I am on. The decision to shave my head, for example, to more fully embody the genderqueer self I began identifying with, now took on personal and global significance: as our work together progressed, I came to realise that I was part of an iconic project – in the context of her body of work – and, more importantly, that we were part of an intensely personal and momentous photographic journaling of my transition as a human being in relation to my individuation, my queer identity and my identity as artist.
G in the chair
Germaine – locked, loaded and ready to braai
Being in front of the lens of Nadine’s iPhone has been one of the most revealing and revelatory experiences of my life. And as with any revelatory relationship between two human beings, it has also been one of the most, if not the most, sensual periods of my life. Sensuality always begins with a coaxing foreplay – a fumbling around in the dark for that thing which transmutes the coy and insecure into the ragingly confident and sexy. And she found that thing. I found that thing under her gaze.
Nadine Hutton is intensely respectful of beauty. Especially personal beauty, whether her subject be a person, a skyline, a cloud or a city. Through the eyes of her camera I entered into a love affair with myself. I came to see myself as exceptional and unique, good-looking and handsome, even pretty. I no longer shied away from the intense glare of the lens. Instead, I embraced my latent flirtatiousness, exhibitionism. In fact, I embraced everything latent within myself. It was as if the lens mediated and eased my journey from potential self to actualised self, as if I’d finally found a way to show myself and the world who I was, who I was becoming, and that I would play with that becoming on a daily basis, always fluid, never stagnant or fixed.
Stereo Trashers – #Joburg Superhero Portraits
There was also a huge shift in how I began to see photographic images of myself: the more I began to inhabit my body and my identity, the more I was able to view the photographs objectively. I was able to see myself objectively for the first time in my life, thereby allowing myself to see what I represented, within the artwork and outside of it. And in that objective reflection I saw beauty, art – in myself, and in what we were creating together. It has been an intensely visceral experience, one that altered my identity as artist. I began to see myself not only as art object, but as the agent of my own creation – of myself and of my own art. And this journey has been intensely erotic. Truly seeing myself and my potential power through Nadine’s portraits was the awakening of my creative self.
Transitions #Germaine I
‘Transitions #Germaine’ is part of Nadine Hutton’s larger body of work, ‘Transitions #Joburg.’ This project hinges on collaborations with queer artists, documenting lives and giving voice to the narratives around their identities and personas, which are in flux, shifting the work from documentary to performance and blurring the line between the two, moving from a visual representation of the Other into a visual representation of the ‘we.’
Transitions #Germaine II
Examples of Hutton’s queer ‘Transitions #Joburg’ project will be exhibited as part of her broader ‘I, Joburg’ exhibition in Johannesburg in September 2012. ‘I, Joburg’ is an ongoing series of photographs exploring a personal, often ironic, humorous and queer vision of home, Johannesburg. Hutton creates mediated experiences of the city and its queer artistic landscape. All photographs are made on an iPhone, a tool that naturally tends to intimacy and immediacy, and are shared almost instantaneously on social networks via instagram to her Posterous and Tumblr blogs. This project will be exhibited at ROOM, an urban art project space in Braamfontein, opening 5 September 2012 - 25 September 2012. Only a few of the images above will be part of the show, so pop in at the exhibition to see more of Hutton’s iconic images of Joburg and its inhabitants. ‘Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy’ will also be premiered at the exhibition.
‘Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy’
Production still from ‘Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy’ I. With Brian Webber.
Making my performance debut in ‘Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy,’ an independent film directed by Nadine, marked the beginning of me having agency in the artistic process, of me being an artist in my own right. An integral, performative, playful part of me was set free. I moved from being an art object to a very active co-creator with my own agency. I followed my instincts, was unafraid, did not doubt myself; all things I've, on the whole, been so terrified of doing. Allowing myself to fully be present, to truly have agency, felt wonderful. And it made me a good actor.
'Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy' is a film project, starring Myer Taub, Brian Webber, Germaine de Larch, John Trengove, Matthew Krouse, Luan Nel, Xtian Lee, Kieron Jina and Stanimir Stoykov. It will be premiered at ROOM, an urban art project space in Braamfontein, opening 5 September 2012 - 25 September 2012.
Production still from ‘Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy’ II. With Brian Webber.
I have always known that creativity needs to be central to my identity and the way I live my life. I’ve thus always been a writer, but as with most writers, I scribbled away on that lonely paper.
It has been this 2-year long journey in the company of Nadine that has made this creative journey less lonely; it has given me the confidence in my identity, my gender identity, my expression of my gender and my artistic identity. This artistic relationship and relationship with art has empowered me to realise that I had and have a story worth telling and that having my story told in collaboration with another artist is not the only avenue of self-expression, but that I have my own, unique and equally powerful voice, and that I could tell my own story, not only through my writing, but through my own artistic expression. The internal debate about whether I’m a writer or an artist (the latter including writing) has been an ongoing one for years. I believed, for the longest time, that art was too spontaneous, too playful to be a medium for me. The collaboration with Nadine and my friendship with her changed all of this.
Production still from ‘Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy’ III. With Brian Webber.
Early this year I made the decision to put my art out there on a blog, to take that courageous step to share my voice. I posted my writing, as usual, but I also started taking photographs. Photography has completely changed my relationship with art. Instead of creativity being a very serious, effort-driven and exhausting process, as with my writing, photography has opened up an exciting world for me. As soon as I started photographing, I started seeing everything as a photograph, and consequently, everything as beautiful. Art became much more immediate, more inspiring and less draining. It inspires me to write more than I did before I started photographing. It has given me the freedom to explore myself, perform my identity in relation to gender and to express myself as a writer, photographer and artist.
Afterbirth #throughthelookingglass – self-portrait by Germaine de Larch
Performing who I am through my writing, photography and collaborations with other artists like Nadine Hutton allows me to have agency in who I am in relation to a world I have the power to influence. For me to take on playing with and ‘performing’ myself has been an unbelievably huge step. Art has become a very important vehicle for me to overcome my discomfort with my physical reality, and has now become a means of expressing my comfort in my own body, and my celebration of it.
Playing the Femme Fatale I #throughthelookingglass – self-portrait by Germaine de Larch
Nadine Hutton is a photojournalist who moves beyond the constraints of still imagery, and also practices as a visual artist in video, installation, intervention and performance art. Much of her work is concerned with social issues. For more of her queer work, visit http://2point8.posterous.com/tag/queer, http://www.2point8.co.za/photography/transitions-nyc/ and http://www.2point8.co.za/photography/transitions-joburg-portraits/; or www.2point8.co.za for her larger body of work, or follow her on Twitter – @2point8photo.
All images, unless stated otherwise, are by Nadine Hutton ©