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Dry Your Eyes Princess

woman holding up her Royal Air Force uniform jacket, alone in a field

Caroline Paige © Stephen King Photography

Photographs by Stephen King

16 December 2015 to 31 January 2016

This exhibition has closed

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A special exhibition of 12 large scale portraits of trans* military veterans by local award-winning photographer Stephen King, exhibited in partnership with Homotopia.

The portraits in the project 'Dry Your Eyes Princess' examine the link between the sitter’s gender identity and their experience of military service. The title is an ironic re-appropriation of the derogatory command to toughen up, that is to ‘dry your eyes princess’, heard by many of the exhibition’s participants whilst serving in the British Armed Forces.

The portraits are of people from Liverpool and other parts of the country who participated in research conducted by Dr Emma Vickers, Senior Lecturer in History, at Liverpool John Moores University. Her work examined their experiences of life before, during and after service in the British Armed Forces. It is the first research in Europe to focus on trans* veterans and likewise, King’s photographic response is the first to look at trans* experiences of military service through visual art.

Dr Vickers’ research uncovered that trans* people in the armed forces were dismissed in significant numbers before the ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* personnel in the British Armed Forces was lifted in Britain in 1999. Before that time, due to limited understandings of gender identity, officials tended to conflate gender identity and sexual identity and many of the trans* personnel who were discharged were accused of being gay. One of the similarities between almost all of Vickers’ interviewees is that they joined the services as a form of therapy in the hope that the hyper-masculinity of the forces would rid them of the discomfort that they felt with their gender identity. 

King collaborated with the participants to analyse and reinterpret Vickers’ research based on their oral testimonies. He constructs images which are reflective of their pinnacle moments. This process leads to a portrait that is not based upon the physicality of identity but that is based on the social and cognitive landscapes surrounding the interviewees’ experiences. 

*Definition: trans/transgender – an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

portrait photo of Christine Beckett

Christine Beckett © Stephen King Photography

Stephen King

Stephen King is an award-winning photographer based in the UK. His background is in editorial photography. In 1998 he co-founded Document magazine where he was senior photographer and photography editor for 10 years. His personal practice is based upon social documentary, portraiture and communities, with a focus on identity and place. His projects have explored dementia, military veterans, community activists, workplace and masculinity. He lectures in photography in Merseyside as well as undertaking commercial commissions and developing personal projects. He has exhibited widely across the UK. 

This project has been funded by Arts Council England

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