“I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the centre of things but where
edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting
frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency,
you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one. "
A friend sent me this quote and it struck some untuned chord in me. I’ve never been comfortable in the centre of things - I like to stay close to the edge, closer to change, and perhaps some notion of freedom.
This filters through to photography. By definition, as a photographer, you are observing and chronicling from a different place, from your own perspective. I seem to be attracted to projects where I’m not on the inside, where I need to work hard to find that space where our worlds meet, tentatively challenging perspectives along the way. But I’ve always felt the need to somehow find my way into the ‘inside’, to do the project justice. Anne Fadiman has made me realise that I don’t need to, that that space between is just as, if not more, valuable a place to explore.
I’ve recently been working with Asifa Lahore, known as the first open gay Muslim drag queen (who is now transitioning to become a woman). It was precisely this gap between our worlds that compelled me to spend time with her. Discussions around transgender rights seem to trigger heightened emotion in the media, but it’s often discussed from within two different centres. As I’m sat, slightly awkwardly, in the drag dressing rooms surrounded by glittery dresses, nudity and items of make up I never knew existed, I realise how very far from my comfort zone I am. I can never be in Asifa’s world, but I now realise that that awkwardness is in fact the space that I’m looking for when I photograph, one that comes from stepping away from the centre of your own world and towards the edge of someone else’s. It’s where the learning starts. If I can capture that tangent point photographically and bring it to others, then perhaps it could help form a space for healthier dialogue, ‘one where you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one’.