Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Female to ‘Male’ exhibit documents transition

Wynne Neilly’s stunning self-portraits are an exercise in identity

Wynne Neilly, Jan 24, 2014. Credit: Wynne Neilly

Going through puberty once is jarring enough — taking stock of the multitude of strange, unexpected changes that come with little warning.

Imagine going through it a second time, and imagine documenting the transition from start to finish.

Wynne Neilly, a graduate of Ryerson’s image arts program, got that chance, and, like any good artist, he’s turned it into a creative experience called Female To “Male.”

Neilly explains that taking a series of self-portraits helped him become more comfortable with his identity after he started transitioning a few years ago. “When I knew that I was starting hormones, I knew I wanted to document that. Obviously, because I’m an artist I was like, ‘I need to use this as a tool; I need to be able to document this,’” he says. “I didn’t really have a plan for this project at all. I knew I’d be taking instant film of myself every week for as long as I felt like it.”

Neilly calls Female To “Male” a “self-portrait project.” It consists of a wall of Polaroids that document his transition, larger self-portraits, audio samples of his voice changes and artifacts tied to his transition — it’s more of an installation piece than a photography exhibit.

Beyond self-portraiture, Neilly is proud of the work he’s created around the queer and trans community he’s part of, especially as one of the photographers behind The Trans Calendar Project, a collective that works for social change through art and trans visibility.

An important distinction for Neilly is the quotation marks in the title of his show: “I don’t identify as ‘male’ really at all,” he says. “Putting it in quotations felt right in challenging what it means to be trans. Getting rid of the stigma, that there’s only one way to transition and there’s only one type of trans experience, because every single trans person has a different experience with their gender, so that’s my way of explaining that.”