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You are viewing: News and Events: Press Releases: Gender Identity Explored in Award-Winning Photos Ground-breaking photo-documentary on transsexuals

For Immediate Release

June 25, 2006

Media Contact:
Dr. Betty Sullivan
Good Vibrations Publicist
(415)974-8985 x224

Gender Identity Explored in Award-Winning Photos Ground-breaking photo-documentary on transsexuals

San Francisco, CA (June 25, 2006) — Award-winning Bay Area documentary photographer Jana Marcus’ work Transfigurations, a powerful, beautiful, groundbreaking photographic series on the transsexual community exploring gender identities, will be showing at Good Vibration’s Gallery on Polk Street. The public is invited to join us for wine and hors d oeuvres, view the collection and meet the artist at the reception on Monday, July 10, 2006 from 7:30-9:30 pm. The event is free. The exhibit will hang from July 10 through August 21, 2006 as part of the exhibit’s US tour and will include pieces from the original work, The Making of a Man and the new work, The Making of a Woman. Marcus’ photographs focus on what it means to be a man and a woman, by people who have changed genders, blurring the line of gender separation and stereotyping.

What: Transfigurations, a photo-documentary by Jana Marcus.

Where: Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA.

Artist Reception: July 10, 2006 at 7:30 - 9:30pm (free to the public)

Contact: 415-345-0400 for more information

Jana Marcus started the photo-documentary Transfigurations in 2003, after a young man rented a room in her home while he was attending the local university. He lived with Marcus for over 6 months when, to her surprise, he shared that he had been a woman five years earlier. He had physically transitioned to a man, there had been no question in Jana’s mind that he was a man.

Marcus remembers “ I had never met a transgender man before, and I realized this was a secret, mysterious world of transformation not often talked about—and certainly not noticed--- in everyday society. Transgender men “pass” in our society and because of this we are unaware that they are present in our culture. More and more curious, I set out to explore the world of transgender men with my camera.”

Transfigurations explores transsexuals and their notions of masculinity and femininity as they change gender identities. “I discovered that gender is both real and illusory, natural and constructed," Marcus comments. "By capturing the physical and mental transformation from one sex/gender to another, the photos reveal the importance of the body to gender identity, as well as the effects of transformative practices on the body, which creates a reality beyond ordinary experience.”

Over the past decade there has been heightened public awareness of transgender issues. With the increased visibility of transgender persons also comes an increase in discrimination and violence directed at transgender and others who are non-traditionally gendered. In spite of this, the transgender community is emerging into its own place in history, as a new movement, expanding the language of gender and sex.

Photo District News of New York awarded the prestigious Best Photos of The Year 2004 and 2005 to Marcus’ Transfigurations photos. It was also included in The International Photography Awards 2005, the Phelan Art Award 2005, the Excellence in Photography Award 2005 from San Jose State's School of Art & Design, and The Center for Photographic Arts Awards 2004, and recently the Good Times Critic's Choice for Best Art Exhibit of 2006. For more information visit

To set up an interview with artist Jana Marcus or a Trans-spokesperson about the photo-documentary, or obtain collection jpegs, or pics, kindly contact Karin Tobiason at (415)332-4207 or Artist bio & resume, artist statement, and what people are saying about Transfigurations pasted below.

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(Long vitae available upon request)

Jana Marcus has been creating award-winning documentary photography for over 15 years. Her current work, TRANSFIGURATIONS, has won numerous prestigious awards including in Photo District News' Best Photos Of The Year in both 2004 and 2005. She is also the winner of UC Berkeley's Center for Photojournalism International Award in 1994 for AFTER MIDNIGHT: 1980's Youth Subcultures of New York City.

Marcus works as a professional photographer in the California Bay Area focusing in the documentary, editorial and performing arts genres. Jana's work has been exhibited on both the East and West Coasts, and has been extensively published in newspapers and magazines. She received her MFA from San Jose State University, a BA in Community Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and studied photography at The School Of Visual Arts in New York City. She has lectured nationally on the subject of documentary photography and is currently an adjunct professor at San Jose State University.

Jana's first book, IN THE SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE: Reflections From The World Of Anne Rice, was published by Thunder's Mouth Press of New York in 1997.


  • Nominated for 2006 Community Leadership Award in the Arts, San Francisco Foundation
  • Best Pictures of the Year 2005 - Photo District News' Photo Annual
  • International Photography Awards 2005 - Honorable Mention-Photo Essay
  • Phelan Art Awards 2005, presented by the San Francisco Foundation
  • Excellence in Photography Award/Grant 2005 - San Jose State School of Art & Design
  • Best Pictures of the Year 2004 - Photo District News' Photo Annual
  • Center for Photographic Arts 2004 Awards, curated by Philip Brookman, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC.
  • Book Publication - In The Shadow of the Vampire, Thunder's Mouth Press, NY, 1997
  • International Photojournalism Award 1994 for After Midnight by UC Berkeley Center for Photojournalism.
  • Grant Award from UCSC for documentary And Yet We Live, January 1985


  • 2006 Transfigurations, Institute For Contemporary Art - The Attic, Santa Cruz, CA.
  • 2006 Transfigurations: The Making of a Man, Diversity Center Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA.
  • 2005 Transfigurations: The Making of a Man, Charles M. Holmes Center, San Francisco, CA.
  • 2005 Transfigurations: The Making of a Man, San Jose State Gallery 3, CA.
  • 2004 Transfigurations: The Making of a Man, San Jose State Gallery 2, CA.
  • 1998 Legs That Have Been Broken, Cabrillo Gallery, Aptos, CA.
  • 1998 After Midnight, Scarab Photo Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
  • 1994 After Midnight, UC Berkeley, Northgate Gallery, CA.
  • 1994 After Midnight, Casanova Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA.


  • 2005 Phelan Awards Art Exhibit, SF Cameraworks, San Francisco, CA.
  • 2005 Glim Glam Glom, Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA.
  • 2005 Tunnel Of Oppression, San Jose State, San Jose, Ca.
  • 2004 CPA Awards Exhibition, Center for Photographic Arts, Carmel, CA.
  • 2003 Image & Idea: The Watcher, San Jose State Gallery 3, CA.


MFA - Photography, May 2005
Excellence in Photography Award
Nominated for Outstanding Thesis Award - California University campuses state-wide

B.A. - Community Studies/Sociology, June 1986
Double honors in the major/thesis.
Concentration in Visual Anthropology.



Transfigurations aims to illuminate who transgender people are, a subject which the mainstream culture has often shadowed in mystery and misunderstood. Navigating the waters of gender politics, the work also explores what comprises masculinity and femininity. The knowledge transgender people have acquired speaks to bridging a gap between the sexes. They have experienced the world from both a female and a male perspective. They have created for themselves what they believe masculinity and femininity to be, and they have found the courage to be who they believe they were born to be, despite daunting odds, ridicule, hate-crimes and murder.

To be transgendered is to transcend gender boundaries in our society. The strict binary boundaries of what is male and female in our culture start as early as birth, when pink or blue colors are chosen for infants. However, what if you knew from an early age you were a boy, but your body was developing as a female? What if the whole world saw you differently than you saw yourself? The transgender individual’s experience has often been traumatic. Many have lost their families, their partners, their children, and their jobs. In addition, they have questioned their religions and undergone painful surgeries, all in the name of becoming "whole"—to have their appearance on the outside match who they are on the inside. They have gone against the status-quo to find truth and balance in themselves, no matter what the cost. For many it has been a "do or die" situation.

In 2003, I started interviewing and photographing transgender men (female-to-males) about their journeys of self-discovery. I found the thought processes intrinsic to what kind of men they were striving to become, and what was informing their choices, were the stories I wanted to tell. In 2005, I turned my lens to transgender women (male-to-females) to photograph and document their thoughts on femininity and how societal pressures may have influenced their views on womanhood.

In shooting the portraits, I chose to take a formalist approach. The more I learned about the complexity of gender issues, the simpler I wanted the images to be. The stark studio, sans props, does not allow you to judge the subjects by their surrounds. They stare back at you, returning the dominant gaze, asking to be recognized, and confronting the viewer with their presence. I wanted each person to be seen simply as a human being, no different than you and I.

I discovered that gender is both real and illusory, natural and constructed. By capturing the physical and mental transformation from one sex/gender to another, the photos reveal the importance of the body in gender identity, as well as the effects of transformative practices on the body, which creates a reality beyond ordinary experience.

I invite you to look into the faces of these truly self-made men and women.

—Jana Marcus


"I have to say that I really really really like your work. Its smart and well executed."
— Lawrence Brose
Executive Director
CEPA Gallery, NY

"This is the most important photographic work I've seen in years."
— Dennis Keeley
Renowned Photographer & Educator

"This work must be seen."
— Charles Gatewood
Renowned Photographer

"Marcus' humane images and interviews...are truly impressive and revealing, containing a universality of issues that are enlightening to every viewer. The work becomes a revealing look at the diversity of our society through the eyes and words of an underrepresented group."
— Brian D. Taylor
Professor of Art and Design
San Jose State University

"[the photos] causes you to re-examine your concepts of self and the comfort zones of others. Bravo!"
— M. Messersmith
Mountain View

"I showed your work...and we were just so moved by the images. You really capture the dignity of people with clarity and honesty. The text accompanying the images is really powerful."
— Dennis J. Dunleavy, Ph.D.
Department of Communication
Southern Oregon University

"...Your images, presentation, statements and insight is outstanding. Your passion and commitment is to be highly commended."
—M. Alcantera

"The vignettes in your Transfigurations exhibit is truly inspiring."
—Carlos Las Vegas, Canada

"My wife and I saw your web site. We were very impressed with...and grateful for...your work. Thank you for this wonderful contribution to helping folks learn more about who we really are."
—J. Martin

"You did a wonderful job capturing the heart, soul, and intelligence of three gentlemen who I am proud to know (Lyle, Jamison, & Aidan). Thank you for not objectifying these men, but presenting them as human beings of depth and intelligence. Work well done."
—N. McDaniel

"I love your show!! Thank you so very much for putting it together, for documenting these wonderful guys and their lives. It's a long hard journey most of them make, and I've found that most of them are wiser and more self-aware than I could have imagined."

"I love your work and being a genderqueer feminist, at the very beginning of my proces, I found it very inspiring to read the ideas about maleness, manhood and so on, since I am struggling with that myself. Thanks for doing this! I am happy the internet to exists to see this work!"
—Joz, Belgium

"I was able to view your current photo exhibit from my computer here in South Carolina. It is a moving and very compelling exhibit--I loved it all."
—J. Herman Blake, Sociologist

"The images and text are fabulous, they illustrate so well what many FTMs think and feel. I have been passing along the link to your website to people everywhere."
—D. Gould, Los Angeles

"I'm a mother and grandmother and lived all these years without knowledge of this subject. Your pictures are astounding and the subjects' comments were heartfelt."
— N. Caylin