Intimate Photo Project Explores Diversity Of Gender Expression Around The World
By Yoon Sann Wong, 03 Aug 2015
For most of the last year-and-a-half, writer Emily Besa and photographer Bernd Ott have been traveling across five cities—Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Los Angeles and New York City—for their photography project ‘All The People’.
The undertaking involves meeting various individuals residing in these cities to discover how they define and convey their own gender identity.
Besa explained on BuzzFeed, “A lot of projects we found tend to focus on one aspect of being non-binary or non-conforming and we were particularly interested in relating the infinite possibilities of gender expression and identity. From the beginning we wanted to avoid any kind of labeling or categorization.”
The duo take a collaborative approach toward the project by letting interviewees choose the location in which they are photographed and how they portray themselves.
As for the interviews, Besa says that she did not work with a fixed set of questions. Instead, “it was more of a conversation that the interviewee led. Everyone was free to share whatever they wanted, and a good part of the written pieces in the book are in the person’s own voice.”
For those who may not fully understand the motivation behind this project, Besa further explains, “Gender identity and expression are truly unique to the individual. And gender is a deeply personal and often intimate aspect of one’s identity. How can anyone be questioned or challenged in this way?”
Speaking to these individuals about such a personal aspect of their lives had also touched the writer.
“If anything surprised me, it was encountering such lightness, positivity, insight, and strength over and over again in people who are often challenged in day-to-day life by insensitivity, ignorance, and prejudice.”
To aid the printing costs for the book, Ott and Besa have initiated a Kickstarter campaign. They intend to release the final print in the five cities visited for the project.
“We hope that in looking at the photos and reading the stories, people will recognize something in themselves and move closer to understanding that we are more alike than different,” said Besa.