Frédéric Fontan says the inspiration for the photo exhibit Trans Egeria came from the many negative things he heard people say about trans people. “I was quite surprised to hear people saying bad things about people they didn’t understand,” says the Paris-based photographer and curator.
That led Fontan to collect a number of striking portraits of trans women and men for a show he mounted in Paris last year. The show proved a huge hit, getting a bounty of positive press and attracting hundreds to see the striking images.
“I wanted to choose images of trans people looking their very best,” Fontan says. “In many cases, people would never know they are trans at first. I wanted to make sure it was a diverse group, with trans people from around the world.” Portrait subjects include Buck Angel, Dana International, Léa T and Michelle Blanc.
Fontan was then approached by members of the Aide aux transsexuels et transsexuelles du Québec (ATQ) about the possibility of bringing the exhibit to Quebec. Fontan loved the idea and has updated the show with portraits of prominent Canadian trans people, including Nina Arsenault.
Fontan says there was an unintentional gender imbalance in the portraits at first, something he has worked to correct. “Trans women often seem far more eager to pose for the camera than trans men do. The trans men seem to have less of a desire to show themselves. But once they do get comfortable with the camera, the results can be very strong.”
Fontan says he has been overwhelmed by the response to the Trans Egeria exhibit. “So many people came to the premiere in Paris, and then the exhibit ran for two months. So many trans people came up to me and thanked me for what they said was a different perspective on trans people, one that made them feel beautiful. It made me cry how moved people were by this collection of images.”
After the Montreal exhibition, Trans Egeria will tour several cities in Quebec. The project is financed in part by the provincial government’s new anti-homophobia funding.