Be yourself in India through Alessio Maximilian Schroder's portraits

“The Shape of Self” is one step forward on the road to transgender emancipation in a historically tough country.

On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India criminalised consensual homosexual intercourse between adults as “unconstitutional, irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”.

This was just the latest step in the long and still ongoing fight for LGBT rights in a country that is not easy for non-heterosexually oriented people. But in 2005 Indian government had already introduced the chance of ticking the box E (for eunuch) besides the traditional M and F in the passport application forms.

The whole Hindu culture is after all permeated by a constant dialogue between male and female principles, even inside the very same individual, and the mixed characteristics synthetised by the sexual vagueness of many a goddess is reflected, not just conceptually, in rituals, arts and daily life.

In recent years, though, the trans community has felt the urge of acquiring a very distinct identity both from the socially more established LGB and the traditionally more codified hijra ones.

Moving from Rome to Calcutta between 2014 and 2018, photographer Alessio Maximilian Schroder decided to investigate the issue though the lens of his large format camera, asking hijra and trans communities members to play themselves in order to give voice to their own individuality within the choral nature of the movement. 

“The Shape of Self”, which is about to become a book thanks to the Ulele crowdfunding campaign launched a few days ago by publisher Seipersei, is therefore a very fitting title for a project that, instead of giving in to the tempation of documentarism, rather focuses on self emacipation.

By enabling them to choose how (and where) they wanted to be represented, with his portraits Schrorder let the hijra, trans women, trans men and in transition subjects be the main characters of their own story by staring at the camera but definitely looking forward to a more equitable and dignified future.

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