Weaving our way through the city beneath the concrete overcoat that drapes east London, we follow the A2 and race towards a looming black cloud. As we exit the metropolis the sky caves in; but it’s bearable – the repetitive beat and anarchic vocal of Patti Smith’s Rock and Roll Nigger fills the car.
About 40 miles southeast of London in the rolling countryside of Kent, we stop at a garage for coffee where an amiable local girl strikes up a conversation. “You don’t look like photographers,” she grins suspiciously, “and you look more like a criminal than a writer,” she continues for added effect. She’s friendly enough, but as we part company one can’t help ponder the idea that the marginalised stereotypes of the past shape our present lives.
In fact, this idea seems pretty apt for the project we’re embarking on today. We’re heading to the picturesque setting of Dungeness to join forces with a bunch of delightful drag queens to shoot the latest addition in our House of Trannies series.
Edging nearer to our chosen location, we pass through a space that evokes a David Lynch film. Quiet, eerie and surreal, small, detached wooden houses like those on a monopoly board dotted along the winding road that runs adjacent to the beach. Passing a shack with ‘Vote UKIP’ posters covering the windows – a remnant of fascism lingering post-election – the ambience in our car changes and our adrenalin surges. This is going to be a good day because we’re all about the subversive – overthrowing conventional, oppressive assertions of human supremacy, through art.
The landscape reflects our mood: archaic, shipwrecked boats strewn over the pebbles contrast with rusty machinery that embody our historically layered, post-industrial society. This is the perfect setting to explore social margins and cultural transformations in the modern world.
House of Trannies is a creative collaboration between photographer Ki Price and artist Ted Rogers. Envisaged from alternate perspectives – Rogers identifies as a transvestite and Price as a heterosexual – the project strips away the ingrained and socially constructed stereotypes of gender whilst simultaneously celebrating the connections between sexuality, fashion and art.
Rogers, who embraced the tranny lifestyle about a year ago, explains his vision for the project: ‘it’s about exploring your own gender, owning both masculinity and femininity within yourself and finding your own definition of who you are through free experimentation. Years ahead of the times, trannies push the boundaries of gender and sexuality in fashion, art, design and performance.’ From this angle it’s easy to comprehend Rogers’ viewpoint in light of what Bowie, Bolan and Vivienne Westwood were doing in the 60’s and 70’s.
From the photographer’s point of view, ‘reformed character’ Price’s stance is slightly different. In his own words, his motivation is enigmatic if no less unique: ‘I wanted to get involved with the project as I was curious to know more about transvestism after spending years in a drug induced coma.’
The finished product is certainly inimitable. With an aesthetic akin to punk, the collaboration challenges the social, political and cultural hegemony that continues – even in 2015 – to categorize human beings, put them in boxes and have them conform to mainstream perceptions of gender and identity. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the project demonstrates how art and fashion have the power to overcome these stereotypes and how to unify these diverse social groups.
Words by Ray Kinsella Photos by Ki Price
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