Saskatchewan

Sask. photography project lets trans and non-binary people tell their own stories

Photographer Evie Ruddy said the projects was sparked after a negative experience with a male photographer.

'Stories That Move You' features 8 LGBTQ community members

Charlie Paisley and his wife pose together at the University of Regina for the Stories That Move You project. (Photograph by Evie Ruddy)

A Saskatchewan LGBTQ photography project launching both virtually and in person is helping transgender and non-binary people tell their own stories. 

Stories That Move You features eight people who are a part of the LGBTQ community. Each image is accompanied by a description and an audio recording of that person telling the story behind the image in their own words. 

Photographer Evie Ruddy launched the project in June as part of Pride Month in partnership with UR Pride, OUTSaskatoon and SK Arts. It is online at storiesthatmove.ca.

"It was kind of a good opportunity to present my story in a way I wanted to," participant Charlie Paisley said. "Evie was really easy to work with and they were really respectful of everything and they really let me put all my input into the project."

Paisley and his wife recently moved to Saskatchewan from British Columbia. 

"It was just a good way to be open about myself in a new place," he said.

Evie Ruddy said they were inspired to start the photography project after a negative experience with a photographer that didn't take any of Ruddy's ideas or input into account. (Storiesthatmove.ca)

Ruddy is a storyteller who goes by the pronouns they and them. They said the idea for the project was sparked after an uncomfortable photo session with a cis-gender man that came to Saskatchewan to photograph the trans and non-binary community last year. 

"At no point throughout the project was I asked how I wanted to appear in the photograph or if I had an idea for a concept for the photo," Ruddy said. "I was really living out the photographer's vision and throughout the photo shoot I was mis-gendered." 

To mis-gender someone is to refer to them using pronouns that do not reflect their gender identity. Ruddy said it can be damaging to transgender and non-binary people to be consistently mis-gendered. 

"Our goal was to just kind of redo the project with trans and non-binary participants but with the goal of ensuring that they were co-creators through every step of the way," Ruddy said. 

Mel (right), a non-binary participant in the project, is shown sitting on a loveseat with their partner, Denis. (Photograph by Evie Ruddy)

Through workshops and one-on-one meetings, the participants conceptualized their image idea and the story they wanted to tell to go along with the photograph. 

"That helped them feel like they had agency over their photos and how they were represented visually and that they were that they felt supported in telling their story in their own words in their own voices," Ruddy said. 

Ruddy said participants have told them they enjoyed the process and now have images and works to share with their friends and family. 

Cat is a transgender woman posing in front of lockers with a denim jacket covered in patches and buttons. (Photograph by Evie Ruddy)

Doing the project this way meant Ruddy gave up the creative license that photographers typically have. Ruddy said photographers typically go through the images and choose what will be published themselves. 

"I had to let go of some of that control and really allow the participants to have agency in this project," Ruddy said.

Rielly is one of the participants. His image was standing against a black background with a rhinestone covered baseball bat draped over his shoulders. His scars from his gender-affirming top surgery are also visible. (Photograph by Evie Ruddy)

Paisley said his wife supported him throughout the project and that he appreciates Ruddy's methods. 

"It's nice to be able to tell your story the way you want to be able to do it," Paisley said. 

Ruddy said they don't have any more photo sessions planned in the future, but would love to do more work like this with the trans and non-binary community. 

The digital storytelling project is also published at the Woods Art Space at 2347 McIntyre Street in Regina, Sask. from June 2 to 30.

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