— photo realism

This photo series is challenging gender norms in a completely refreshing way

We are ALL kinds of psyched about photographer Rhys Harper’s gorgeous new photo series “Transcending Gender,” which celebrates the specificity and individuality of its transgender and gender non-conforming subjects and strives to illuminate the powerful truth that there are as many trans narratives as there are trans individuals. Too often, those who identify as trans and gender non-conforming are stereotyped and marginalized. Harper’s photos seek to both humanize and honor his subjects. But his project isn’t just about trans narratives—it’s about everyone.

The project began as a way to question the notion of gender in all its forms, and grew into a very intimate, stunning portrait series capturing the real lives of people who challenge gendered notions just by being their glorious selves. Many of his subjects are transgender but not all. His portraits reveal the many ways people embrace their boundless uniqueness, from a Native American warrior posing in traditional Native regalia, to a trans advocate and female MMA fighter in the ring.

The project, according to Harper’s artist statement, “began as a photographic celebration of the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming humans.” But it grew into something more. “Recently, it has become a statement by transgender individuals, and also individuals who are not transgender – literally, everyone and anyone – that we are all a little gender non-conforming in some way or another, and that we are more than just our gender.”

Harper’s project celebrates everyone from trans pioneers to “straight women with short hair who are not transgender.” The message is all about freedom of expression and defying the parameters we were raised to believe we had to fit into.

“I would like to start conversations and change the way we think about, talk about and understand gender in mainstream society,” Harper told Mic. “For instance, why can’t guys have a pink phone case? Or why is it seen as weak for guys to cry when they are sad? Why can’t girls be strong and fierce? Why are colors gendered? Why is anything gendered? I want to see a shift in these gendered expectations in our society, because I don’t really think they benefit anyone.”

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