Taking to the stage at last month’s Nicer Tuesdays was London-based photographer Bex Day. A 26-year-old, self-taught fashion and documentary photographer, she began by explaining: “My work focusses on identity, diversity, freedom of choice and gender equality. I’m interested in challenging rigid beauty ideals and stereotypes within my work.” She continued on to say that “I essentially want to take people out of boxes constructed by society which tend to enhance narrow-mindedness,” before preceding to introduce to project she was here to talk about: Hen.
Hen, a series which was produced over a three-year period, documents those over 40 in the transgender and non-binary communities in the UK. Bex is a practitioner who’s interested in the human condition, she told us, so began the series after noticing a distinct lack of representation of those above this age and, as someone with a background in journalism, used the project to uncover and highlight their stories. The series takes its name from the Swedish gender-neutral pronoun, something that “unfortunately, doesn’t exist in the English language,” Bex explained.
In order to find her subjects, Bex took to Craig’s List, and her first reply was from Jan. After hanging out a few times in Walthamstow where Jan lives, Bex was introduced to a new website which allowed her to connect with many more members of the community. “At the beginning, it was difficult because you’re just a voice on the internet, and it’s hard to gain the trust of these communities,” Bex recalled, “but through persistence and constant posting, it began to grow.”
Hen features 30 subjects photographed over three years, and taught Bex as much about herself as it did about the communities she was interacting with. “I didn’t know how to balance putting myself before my subjects and the intensities of their needs,” she remarked but added, “It was really eye-opening to hear about the difficulties they face because it’s often censored in the media.”
Ultimately, Hen is a thoughtful and touching series, as well as a reflection of Bex’s wider practice. As someone for whom psychology is always predominant in her work, it allowed her to explore each sitter’s story and, in turn, gain a deeper understanding of the human condition while deconstructing ideas of how people should look or what they should be like. “With Hen, I wanted to enhance social change and open up a platform for awareness,” she explained.