A new exhibition is shining a spotlight on trans models and focusing on the limitless diversity in femininity.
UK-based photographer Allie Crewe opens her exhibition in Manchester tomorrow (27 July).
The nine-week exhibition at Manchester Central Library is entitled You Brought Your Own Light.
The name came from one of the trans models, Jude, asking Crewe how she made the light to look so good on the photos Crewe took of her.
Crewe simply replied: ‘You brought your own light’ and explained she didn’t manipulate the light or edit the photos at all.
‘I aim to shoot the light within,’ she told Gay Star News. ‘Do you know what the word photography means? To paint with light.’
Crewe added: ‘These portraits feel very intimate.’
‘Show me your story using your body, hands, eyes’
Allie Crewe says she loves stories about transformations.
While she doesn’t personally identify as transgender, she says her interest in these narratives is personal because they ‘mirror’ her life.
She revealed: ‘My childhood was one of severe sexual and physical abuse.’
Crewe also had big dreams of an artistic career for her future, but gave into pressure and gave it up for a more ‘sensible’ path in life.
When she realized she wasn’t happy, she made a change in her life for the better and started attending film school at night. She also found a great teacher and mentor in Aj Wilkinson.
Crewe said: ‘The stories of these trans women were very different to mine but the parallels are striking. We all lived the wrong life and we were all transforming.
She added: ‘We knew the darkness within us.’
Crewe then explained: ‘I used my camera to explore each woman’s narrative.
‘I asked my models to sit for me – to come as themselves and to drop the mask we wear to carry us through life. Show me your story using your body, hands, eyes.
‘I wondered if they would be too frightened but they found it empowering to be seen and valued for their true selves.
‘I love the challenging gaze they gave to my lens,’ she said.
Empowering trans people
Alongside each photo is a story from each trans model.
Crewe said she wanted to explore the stories of trans women through authenticity.
So she enlisted the help of Olivia Fisher, who identifies as transgender. Fisher compiled and edited the stories of the trans models.
One model said: ‘The only real choice in transitioning is between living as your true self or not living at all.’
Another commented: ‘The liberation of being true to myself is like getting my head above water after my lungs have been burning and screaming for air.’
At the start of this year, transgender charity Sparkle contacted Crewe to ask about a collaboration.
Sparkle is a national transgender charity that organizes the Sparkle Weekend celebration in Manchester in July each year. They also hold a series of events throughout the year to actively promote fundraising and trans awareness.
Crewe agreed to the collaboration and even became the official photographer for Sparkle Weekend this year.
The proceeds for the exhibition go to Sparkle to help them continue the work they do.
For more information on the exhibition, visit the Manchester Central Library website.