Paper Title

[2.2] Compassionate Lens to Abject Visions: Reconciling Christer Strömholm’s Photographic Project on the Transsexual ‘Friends’ of Place Blanche

Location

IB 1019

Start Date

January 2020

End Date

January 2020

Disciplines

Gender and Sexuality | History | Photography

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

In mid-to-late twentieth century Europe, Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm was committed to accumulating unconventional, boundary-pushing photographs that showcased uncommon themes, as well as a personal and professional disposition towards capturing marginalized subjects through photographic experimentations. Strömholm’s intermittent stays between 1959 to 1968 in Parisian communities produced a significant collection of photographs featuring transsexual women employed mainly as prostitutes and/or performers in the surrounding Place Blanche and Place Pigalle districts of Paris. Despite the difficult climate for transsexual women and the taboo nature in documenting them, Strömholm’s photographs came to be celebrated and mythologized in both the public sphere and in photographic communities following the publications of two photo-essay collections entitled Vännerna från Blanche (Friends from Place Blanche)(1983) and Les Amies de Place Blanche (The Friends of Place Blanche)(2011). Upon closer analysis of these photographs, however, it is clear that there is discernible disparity in how the transsexual women are presented between each publication and in the time progression of his photographic project. In the earlier photographs of the transsexual women, both photographer and subjects collaborate to create an idealized and fantasized portrayal of transsexual femininity that depicts these women as glamorous agents in control of their identities and lives. In contrast, the later photographs reveal a lack of agency as the women are fully exposed and literally and symbolically stripped bare, and, consequently, portrayed as poor, desperate, insecure, and dejected transsexual prostitutes. In reconciling this disparity, consideration of the photographer's possible motives and the thematic and visual elements within the photographs are analyzed in relation to Butlerian theories of gender performativity and Kristevian theories of the abject.

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Jan 18th, 10:30 AM Jan 18th, 11:45 AM

[2.2] Compassionate Lens to Abject Visions: Reconciling Christer Strömholm’s Photographic Project on the Transsexual ‘Friends’ of Place Blanche

IB 1019

In mid-to-late twentieth century Europe, Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm was committed to accumulating unconventional, boundary-pushing photographs that showcased uncommon themes, as well as a personal and professional disposition towards capturing marginalized subjects through photographic experimentations. Strömholm’s intermittent stays between 1959 to 1968 in Parisian communities produced a significant collection of photographs featuring transsexual women employed mainly as prostitutes and/or performers in the surrounding Place Blanche and Place Pigalle districts of Paris. Despite the difficult climate for transsexual women and the taboo nature in documenting them, Strömholm’s photographs came to be celebrated and mythologized in both the public sphere and in photographic communities following the publications of two photo-essay collections entitled Vännerna från Blanche (Friends from Place Blanche)(1983) and Les Amies de Place Blanche (The Friends of Place Blanche)(2011). Upon closer analysis of these photographs, however, it is clear that there is discernible disparity in how the transsexual women are presented between each publication and in the time progression of his photographic project. In the earlier photographs of the transsexual women, both photographer and subjects collaborate to create an idealized and fantasized portrayal of transsexual femininity that depicts these women as glamorous agents in control of their identities and lives. In contrast, the later photographs reveal a lack of agency as the women are fully exposed and literally and symbolically stripped bare, and, consequently, portrayed as poor, desperate, insecure, and dejected transsexual prostitutes. In reconciling this disparity, consideration of the photographer's possible motives and the thematic and visual elements within the photographs are analyzed in relation to Butlerian theories of gender performativity and Kristevian theories of the abject.