I wanted this to be about them, but in the end it was about her. The ether didn’t deliver – and perhaps, for Charlotte and Aley, that’s how it should be. The photo stands for itself.
The State Library of NSW delivered up many pathways to investigate during my visit last year. A winning photograph, on display there for the 2018 Nikon-Walkley, certainly stopped me in my tracks as I perused the entries on show at the august institution. ‘Trapped in the Wrong Body’ was challenging to look at, but that was nothing compared to the challenges in setting it up. In turn, the image-sitters, Charlotte and Aley, were courageous, beautiful and ultimately, compelling.
The shooter, Sylvia Liber, graduated in fine arts in 1994 and began her career in photo-journalism at the Illawarra Mercury. She’s won other awards before, doubling up with two wins for this prize, the second being ‘Deep Love for Dance’ in the Community/Regional section. But let her tell the story of capturing the winning image for the Portraiture section:-
For “Trapped in the Wrong Body”, I hoped to gain a greater understanding of the lives of transgender people. To most, someone’s sex is something determined by biology and gender is entirely separate. For many transgender people their gender identity is the way they feel they should fit into society, and does not align with the sex the doctor put on their birth certificate. I wanted to tell a story in an intimate way through the raw passion and love Charlotte and Aley share for each other. I wanted to push social boundaries in a way that would challenge and educate our community.
The biggest challenge for “Trapped in the Wrong Body” was my lack of understanding. I found I needed to educate myself on the subjects and gain their trust. The girls thought I was gravitating towards tired transgender tropes. I had to try and emphasise how that didn’t ring true in their lives.
It makes me proud to know these stories have the potential to open minds or inspire others in some way by pushing the boundaries. Being able to document these stories in time forever also gives me a deep sense of pride.
The photographer’s website = http://www.sylvialiberphotography.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=38713&Akey=4WAFJ7YF