The Shape of Self

The Shape of Self is a series of portraits focused on transgender communities of West Bengal. This project aims to represent the struggled identities of trans people, stressing the individuality of each person. The Shape of Self presents individuals belonging to various social backgrounds, castes, and different generations. It includes various “typologies” of trans people: transgender and trans sexual (both transwomen and transmen), and also Hijras and cross-dressers.


The latter have been included as forerunners of a trans-identity constrained and hidden in the net of social restrictions, while Hijras have been included as representative of the historical tradition of trans-identity in India. The portraits capture the multifarious individualities of the trans community - there are activists, artists, dancers, models, actresses, make-up artists, employees in big companies, cooks, sex workers, teachers and students.


To stress the right to be and exist as a trans self, the individuals photographed are always positioned in the middle of the frame and appear directly in front of the camera (and hence, the viewer) with make-up, dress and colours of their choice. They are photographed in places connected to their personal life stories – such as streets, special parts of their neighbourhood, or work places – and mainly in their private rooms seen as the core space in which their identities developed.


The result is a series of portraits of individuals who are at ease and confident, creating a strong feeling of intimacy. Likewise, it gives further information about the Indian background of each person stressing its various social, religious and economic contexts. It shows, in some cases, the arduous conditions in which trans people live. Their gazes, however, clearly assert that the struggles they face for social acceptance and integration into Indian society do not inhibit their pride in the choice to freely be themselves.