Transfigurations

Posted by Kelly on July 14, 2012

Cover of TransfigurationsMarcus, Jana. Transfigurations. 7 Angels Press, 2011. Paperback. 130p. $35.00. 978-0-9833434-0-0.

This coffee-table collection of black and white photographs, some clothed and some nude, show people—diverse in gender, age, and race—who have changed their bodies to align with their internal gender. In his forward, Jamison Green assesses the book’s audience: “We continue to fascinate artists and storytellers, theologians and mythologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, social workers, ethicists, police, and perverts.” That is a good assessment of the audience for this book.

Accompanied by brief comments from the subjects, the photographs, both beautiful and disquieting, challenge assumptions about identity and gender. Individually, the photographs are plain, given an austere tone with the black frames, yet they work together to construct a whole that is more than simply a series of images.

In the second section, photographs show different stages in the physical transformation of three people as they transition. The final section of nudes of subjects with a mix of physical sex characteristics emphasizes their dignity and humanity. The end papers are a celebration of the faces of people who are now comfortable in their bodies.

According to transgender people who examined this collection, the photographs feel affirming of their identities. In the forward, Green talks about the ways photography has helped advance understanding of and by people who feel the need to alter their bodies to match their identities. His eloquent and succinct essay is an integral part of the book.

Libraries that are developing collections on gender identity will want Transfigurations, as there are only a few similar photo essays, and the most recent was published a decade ago.

Reviewer: Carolyn Caywood
Retired librarian, Virginia Beach Public Library

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