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Sara Davidmann: 
“Transgender and love in Ken. To be destroyed and collaborative photography"


This presentation will explore some of my photographic research carried out in the last ten years that addresses issues of gender and love. Specifically, I will discuss photographs from three projects - Eve, Adam, and the Garden of Earthly Delights, Trans Relationships, and Ken. To be destroyed.

In the first two projects, I worked collaboratively with participants from UK trans and queer communities. Through photography and oral history recordings, participants expressed their gender and sexual identities, and talked about their intimate relationships with others.

In contrast, in the project Ken. To be destroyed I worked with a family archive gathered together by my mother, Audrey Davidmann, from the late 1950’s-1970’s. The archive contains letters, papers, and photographs that tell the story of my uncle Ken and Aunt Hazel, and how four years after they married, in 1958, Hazel discovered that Ken was transgender.

Despite a lack of understanding of transgenderism in 1950s Britain, Ken and Hazel remained together until the end of Ken’s life. In the privacy of the home, Ken was a woman but in public, Ken was a man.

In this paper, I shall draw a comparison between Ken’s 1950s expression of his/her gender identity and relationship with Hazel, and some of the more recent accounts. Concerns of changing attitudes over time, the family, erasure, the visible and the unseen will be discussed. The role that photography can play in the processes of identifying with the image of another will be considered. As will photography’s creative potential - through combining analogue, digital and alternative processes - to explore the marks of time and damage, re-image and re-imagine, and create new narratives.


Sara Davidmann is an artist/photographer.

Since 1999, she has taken photographs and recorded oral histories in collaboration with people from UK trans and queer communities. Her work has been internationally exhibited and published.

Her recent project, Ken. To be destroyed, has been exhibited at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London (UAL) (2017) and Schwules Museum Berlin (2016), both of these exhibitions were curated by the writer and curator Val Williams. Ken. To be destroyed was also exhibited at Museum of Liverpool (2014); Limewharf Gallery (2014); PARCspace, Photography and the Archive Research Centre at London College of Communication, UAL (2014) and at the Unity Theatre for Homotopia’s 10th Anniversary Arts Festival, Liverpool (2013).

Exhibitions include Extreme, with Catherine Faulds, Glass Tank Oxford Brookes University, (2015), Trans*_Homo Schwules Museum Berlin (2012), In/Visible Genders LGBT Centre Paris (2009), Somatechnics Sydney (2009), Transfabulous London (2007).

Publications include Ken. To be destroyed, edited by Val Williams, Schilt (2016), Crossing the Line, Dewi Lewis (2003), and she was guest co-editor of a Journal of Photography & Culture Special Issue Queering Photography (2014). She contributed a book chapter to Transgender Experience Routledge (2014) and with Elspeth Brown she co-authored a journal article Queering the Trans Family Album, Radical History Review (2015).

She has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Philip Leverhulme Prize, Fulbright Hays Scholarship, four Arts and Humanities Research Council awards, an Association of Commonwealth Universities Fellowship and a Welcome Trust grant.

Sara is a Reader in Photography at London College of Communication, UAL and a member of the Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) at London College of Communication, UAL.

For more, see Sara Davidmann's website