Student Photographer Receives Exhibition in NYC

By Christopher Ponpitaksuk|September 28, 2016Top Stories|

Presenting a series of twelve photographs, SE student Jady Bates has received an exhibition at the Soho Photo Gallery of New York City.

TRANSGENDER BEAUTIFUL is concept series depicting the birth, emergence, realisation and self-actualisation of a transgender person.

Solely monochromatic—frank, uncomplicated shots of transgender activist Rebekah Katherine Brewis are presented in sharp contrast against a background of solid black and solid white.

Taken with a cheap Holga camera, they were developed and hand-printed by Bates herself in SE’s own darkroom.

Her exhibition will be held from September 8th to October 1st in New York City, with Bates herself appearing at the gallery on the 9th, 10th and 11th to answer questions.

“Presenting an overview perspective on the transgender life experience of self-actualization beyond the perceivable constraints of the global community,” I interviewed Portland photographer Jady Bates on her recently released series, TRANSGENDER BEAUTIFUL.

                –Christopher Ponpitaksuk.

  • New York is certainly a very coveted destination for artists of all types—how did you get recognised for an exhibition there?

I got accepted into a national competition that Soho Photo Gallery has back in February called the Krappy Kamera Competition, which is just a plastic lens or a toy camera show.

I showed one piece, and it was actually a picture on one of the first rolls of film I ever took in the darkroom class at PCC. It made the show, and so I flew to New York because it was such an opportunity.

I wanted to be there, I wanted to meet people. I met the president of the gallery—who has since then become a friend—and we got to talking, and I said, “You know, I’ve just met a transgender model in Portland and I’m going to do my first concept shoot.”

He said, “That sounds fantastic. When you’re done please submit it to Soho, and we’ll just see if it’s good or what happens,” and then he recommended that I try to submit my portfolio. The next month I flew out to submit the twelve pieces for the show and they were accepted.

I just feel really lucky and really excited, because I was thinking “Gosh, how do you break into galleries,” you know?

  • The subject of your series was transgender political activist Rebekah Katherine Brewis. How did you two meet?

Actually via social media. I think it was Twitter. A lot of the space for contact info on my social media says “Contact Me, Let’s Collaborate,” because I’m always looking for new ideas, projects, especially as a photographer of models.1_160416_birthing_transgenderbeautiful

She sent me a message and I said that I’d love to collaborate on a concept shoot. I didn’t even really have the idea of what this whole story, this whole concept, this whole show would be. I just had a couple of ideas for photos, and then we met and I started to get to know her.

I come from a background of conflict resolution and peace studies from my degrees, so inclusivity and promoting kind of these ideas of acceptance, of love, of positivity are really important to me. I think they’re especially important in today’s climate.9_160416_being_transgenderbeautiful

After meeting her I was just kind of inspired to try a couple of photos, and then we had four shoots scheduled, four photo sessions.

We only used three of them, but out of all of those photos an entire body of work emerged, and I was able to just piece together this beautiful story of a kind of self-actualisation, especially for the transgender experience, which was amazing. I mean, it was amazing.

It’s almost like when a concepts reveals or forms as an artist, you’re not looking directly at it. You’re letting it percolate. You know it’s there and it’s developing and it’s out there, and as all the work and everything comes together, it just develops.

Photo of Woman with black cloth over her breasts

From Jady Bates Soho exhibit, summer 2016.

And then you piece it together, you know, and you sort of weave together a concept, a story, if it works. Sometimes of course it doesn’t work.

I also want to say something else about the model, Rebekah. She……was beautiful. And she inspired this story of strength and power.

You know, I never read into her history and for a very specific reason. I still don’t know her story today, because I didn’t want it to influence me. It wasn’t a story about Rebekah; it was a story about a transgender person, on a transgender journey of self-actualisation.

And if you look at all twelve pieces, you can extrapolate that even to anyone’s journey of self-actualisation, but it’s very specific more to the transgender experience.

  • What would you yourself describe your style as?

That’s a really interesting question. I’ve never thought about that. In street photography I always shoot by the hip. I’m a real fast shooter. I don’t like to let the photos come to me; I don’t like to sit and wait. I go out and find them and let life happen and really kind of get in the mix and take photos of what’s really happening.

It’s really interesting. I don’t know, I don’t know how to describe my style. Some people have said to me, “Jady, you have a really distinct style,” but I never thought about maybe what that was, or how to put it into words. Photography is what you say without words. You can’t say it in words. You look at it and you get a feeling.

  • How was the series conceived?

I started with a few ideas of photographs that I wanted to try and built poses, and as the work started to emerge, especially after the first photography session, I realised what I could do with it, a story that I might be able to tell, something that I could show, a……a social commentary in a positive way. You know a positive story that could hopefully inspire other people.

  • What were your motivations for producing TRANSGENDER BEAUTIFUL?

I don’t think enough people, maybe, are educated about the transgender community or even LGBTQ as a whole, and I wanted to produce something beautiful that people would look closer at, and maybe change their minds about if they were confused or maybe biased.

I wanted to promote this idea that the transgender community and transgender people and the transgender experience is beautiful.

It’s just like you and me and we’re all human and we all go through this journey of finding out who we are. And especially for transgender people, they have to acknowledge it against the grain of acceptance.

It takes such strength, I think, and it takes a lot of self-love and that’s what I wanted to express in this series.

  • Where can one view TRANSGENDER BEAUTIFUL if not at the exhibition?

You know I just contacted actually…well I’ve contacted a number of other galleries to see if they were interested, and I’ve got some initial interest, but I don’t have any final word that it’s going to any other galleries yet.

Of course it’s also on my website. I’ve actually got two other concept shoots that are on there. One’s “Working Joe” and the other’s called “You As Angel”.

I’d like to actually give it away to some sort of community or place maybe in Orlando, Florida that the LGBT community could use to inspire, or to sell, or to benefit them. I’d that artwork to go somewhere where it’d really make a difference afterwards.

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