Nana, 1959 © Christer Strömholm

Travel back in time to 1950s Paris, where a community of transgender women found their chosen families. Follow the photographer Mariette Pathy Allen through the decades as she traces the stories of gender-nonconforming people, from Seattle to Havana. Revisit the iconic drag scene of New York City in the 1980s-90s, and see how photographers today are illuminating trans histories and advocating for human rights in this collection of photographs celebrating transgender history.

Cobra, 1961 © Christer Strömholm

Remembering a Community of Transgender Women Living in Paris in the 1950s-60s

In the 1950s, the Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm (1918-2002) found his home-away-from-home at Paris’s Place Pigalle. He stayed there for nine years in the 1950s, befriending a group of extraordinary women—a great many of them transgender. In 1983, he told their story with his classic monograph Les amies de Place Blanche (The Friends From Place Blache), now a collector’s item.

Beth and her husband, Rita, Boston, MA, 1983 © Mariette Pathy Allen

From the 1970s to Now, Mariette Pathy Allen Traces Transgender History

“I got very little respect for this work for a long time,” Mariette Pathy Allen tells me, remembering her early days photographing and collaborating with gender-nonconforming people throughout the United States. “Publishers thought the subject was too limited. Galleries didn’t find the pictures very exciting because my images de-sensationalized the subject matter.” 

Back then, she took matters into her own hands, traveling far and wide to share the stories of the people she’d met through slideshow presentations. Now, decades later, her pivotal work capturing transgender history is being recognized as part of the retrospective exhibition Breaking Boundaries: 50 Years of Images at Culture Lab LIC, curated by Orestes Gonzalez and Jesse Egner

Page © Linda Simpson

Portraits of Page: A Look at ‘80s and ‘90s Drag Life in NYC

Feature Shoot spoke with the legendary drag queen Linda Simpson about her friend Page, who helped define the creative culture of downtown NYC in the 1990s. “Page was my first transgender friend, and she enormously expanded my mind about gender expression,” Simpson told us.

“Twenty years ago, even in my hip downtown drag scene, we were not very knowledgeable about transgender people, and Page demystified a lot of issues for me. I’m very grateful to her for being so open and honest with me. Page was extraordinary, even bizarre, but ultimately she was a lovely and kind person, and we shared a million laughs.”

Elio and Luci © Reme Campos

A Photographer Finds Strength and Resilience in Transgender Youth

While working on her ongoing project Trans(ition), the London-based photographer Reme Campos met a small community of young trans and non-binary people, sharing moments of transgender history through hushed, understated portraits, audio recordings, and poetry. “This is the first work where I’ve asked my sitters to write or record something about their lives, experiences, and feelings, but I think it is a way for them to express themselves a bit more,” she tells us. 

“Hanging out at home. Naechané and Kamari, a transgender friend who Naechané mentors, spend time playing video games and watching television. As Mz Fontaine, Naechané was the first publicly known gay rapper in London and he was looked up to by many people in the community. My witness to his strength and standing was clear in his mentoring of Kamari. Because Naechané had been through so much in his life he was able to provide guidance and support for Kamari while still maneuvering his own experiences.” © Leon Cato

A Glimpse into the Life of a Black Trans Advocate

The documentary photographer Leon Cato reflects on his collaboration with his cousin, Naechané Valentino Romeo, a London-based rapper, trans man, and advocate. “What is especially important right now is for society to truly recognize that All Black Lives Matter and that Black Liberation is the key to a better world,” the photographer says. 

Relationship, #23 (The Longest Day of the Year), 2011 © Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst

Photos Capture the Side-by-Side Transitions of a Couple in Love

From 2008 until 2014, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst took hundreds more photographs of one another. Over the course of that time, Drucker, a transgender woman, and Ernst, a transgender man, would transition, side-by-side. Though they’re no longer together, their love story is preserved in these photographs.

“My mother is my biggest support. She has been there through the good and the bad days. I hope someday I can have a family and be an unconditionally loving mother, just like mine has been to me.” – Chloe, 20-year-old transgender female, Cork, Ireland. © Annie Tritt

A Deeply Human Look at the Lives of Transgender Youth

The photographer Annie Tritt tells us about Transcending Self, a collection of portraits and interviews with transgender and gender-expansive children, teenagers, and young adults around the world. “This is not my story,” they say. “It is theirs. I respect them. I honor them. I listen to them.”

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