Photography allows the contemporary viewer to feel as well as see the instantiation of self and community. As Kaja Silverman argued with analog photography, “the luminous trace of what was in front of the camera at the moment the photograph was made . . . attests to its referent’s reality, just as a footprint attests to the reality of the foot that formed it.” In other words, photography is a “vital art” of self and worldmaking. This talk focuses on trans* visualization in high art, scene, and portrait photography to consider whether the normalization of queer history at the beginning of the 21st century has in fact resulted in a more fulsome representation and remembrance of gender atypical lives, loves, leisure and sexuality. I will argue it has, but not without consequences. Photography makes possible new ways to actualize a trans* inclusive queer kinship, but it requires that we ask ourselves, following Eliza Steinbock, what are the conditions of trans* visibility in particular spaces and places in time? What is foregrounded, claimed and attributed value and what exceeds representation? It bears asking, as I will do here, when contemporary trans* aesthetics are drawn upon to help a community constitute and remember itself on a local, national and transnational scale are we truly able to be in kinship with people’s subjectivity, especially when trans* figurations don’t take the shape and form we have come to expect?
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Jennifer Evans is professor of European history at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada, located on the unceded and traditional homeland of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people. She writes about German and transnational histories of sexuality, visual culture, and social media and memory through the lens of queer theory. Her second monograph, Queer Life After Fascism: Kinship and the Queer Art of History will be published by Duke University Press in the spring of 2023. Currently, she is overseeing a multi-year, multi-platform big data project on social media and networks of hate between Germany, Canada, and the US that analyzes how historical memory is manipulated by everyday actors and organizations to cultivate mistrust around the role and legacy of democratic pluralism, migration, gender equality and LGBTQI* rights in western nations. Alongside her academic writing, she undertakes collaborative digital projects like the New Fascism Syllabus (www.NewFascismSyllabus.com) and the German Studies Collaboratory (www.GermanStudiesCollaboratory.org). She is also a competitive powerlifter, with ambitions to represent Team Canada again once the pandemic subsides.