'This is Gender' Photo Exhibition Explores Gender in Modern Societies Across the Globes

'This is Gender' Photo Exhibition Explores Gender in Modern Societies Across the Globes

Gender has become more and more of a prominent subject in contemporary society with the open challenge to gender roles, definitions, biases, and identities.This exhibition aims to embody the difficult and ever-shifting landscape to raise awareness for power and privilege associated with gender.

Global Health 50/50 is an independent research initiative that strives to create awareness for inequality in the areas of gender and health. Across the globe gender plays a significant role in opportunity and lifestyle, with many individuals whom do not fit neatly into the typical black-and-white understanding of gender having to live on the fringe of their respective societies. The organization launched a photography competition #Thisisgender to capture what gender means in communities all over the world. The exhibition shows work from over 200 photographers in 30 countries.

The winning image raises multiple questions of gender equality. Widow Markevich Volha Fedarauna poses in her home in Belarus where at the ages of 65-years-old and above, there are twice the number of men as there women. This image both celebrates the exploration of identity in the later years of a woman's life in Belarus, but also poses the question of which such disparity in gender life expectancy exists.

"Markevich Volha Fedarauna Poses at the House" by Andrei Liankevich (Belarus, 2018)

"A widowed woman sits at her home in Belarus. Surrounded by flowers, embroidery and dolls, she dries grain on her carpeted floor. Women outlive men in every country in the world. In Belarus, above the age of 65, there are more than two times as many women as men in society. Here Liankevich explores how new identities can flourish in the later years of a woman’s life."

Here are some of the other beautiful images featured in this exhibition.

"Untitled" by Micha Serraf (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2018)

"Two non-binary people in a golden field in Cape Town. Serraf draws on the visual language of afrofuturism to explore gender and African-ness, and the construction and deconstruction of identity, belonging, blackness, queerness and masculinity."

"Janet at Home" by Emma Wilson (Hull, England, 2018)

"Jim was a former soldier and truck driver. Jim transitioned to Janet in 2015 at the age of 66. She lives in the north of England in one of the largest council estates in Europe with her wife and two children, in the same house where she formerly lived as Jim. Through visual contradictions, Wilson explores the intersection of white, working class masculinity with transitional gender fluidity."

"Harry Pregnant" by JJ Levine (Montreal, Canada, 2015)

"A portrait of the photographer’s partner, Harry, a trans man, pregnant with their child, at their home. It is part of JJ’s series Queer Portraits, which plays upon the cultural value attributed to the subject of portraiture in the art historical canon."

"Who's There?" by Dhrubajyoti Bhattacharjee (Varanasi, India, 2014)

"In the midst of a power cut, an elderly woman searches for her medicines in her small room in an old people’s home in Varanasi. The widowed woman, although elderly and living in impoverished conditions, seems strong, capable and independent. Her face is determined, her posture supported by her own arm, and her hand holds steady the illuminating light."

"Le Grande Fetish Ball" by Andiswa Mkosi (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2019)

"Humphrey Ndebele, Khotso Rams, Tsepo Kgathlane and Debbie Molefe pose together at The Fetish Ball competition. Held a day before Johannesburg Pride at the Tennis Club, the event is an important date in the LGBT+ community in South Africa and provides a critical space for expressing, reflecting and experimenting with gendered and sexual identity."

"Untitled" by Shirsendu Banarjee (West Bengal, India)

"Surrounded by bushes, a young man rehearses the ‘chhou’, an Indian folk dance, for a performance of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Playing the part of the peacock, he is dressed in a sparkling, vibrant costume, adorned with gold and azule jewelry. It is traditional for men to play such gender fluid roles in depictions of Hindu epics." 

"Adolescence" by Stefano Zocca (Carinthian Spa, Austria)

"Portrait of the photographer’s 15-year-old son at a spa in Austria, using underwater photography to capture the disorientating experience of adolescence and the way in which outside structures shape the transition of childhood into adulthood."

"This is Gender" photography exhibition will be running from 9th to 23rd of March, 2020 at UCL North Cloisters, London, and is free to enter.

I appreciate this is a sensitive topic and all of our politics and views are likely to differ in one way or another. As always, we invite discussion over the subject matter of the images and the images themselves. However, this isn't the platform for comprehensive essays on the difference between equality and equity, or equality of opportunity over equality of outcome, and so on. Hateful comments will not be tolerated full-stop.

All images used courtesy of, and with the permission of Global Health 50/50

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Yet you post this politically correct tinged drivel then expect everybody to remain silent using the threat of 'Hateful comments won't be tolerated?' The hypocrisy is rich in this one. . . The author set the mouse trap with cheese and is simply waiting for the trap to trip. Two genders is all I recognize.

Why do you even care if others recognize themselves as something else? It has no bearing on you. It has nothing to do with your beliefs. It has nothing to do with you period. Don’t like it? Don’t read it.
The reason there’s a warning about hateful comments, because people go out of their way to disrespect other people they’ve never even met. It’s silly people have to fear for their lives over issues like this.
You can demean it as “politically correct” but really it’s about respect.

I agree and I don't give two hoots how one sees oneself....until it alters the way we have to behave.

This trend is already ruining women's competitive sports. Allowing males to compete against women in strength and speed competitions is absurd. Sure, once in a while, a woman might beat a man, but that would be the exception that proves the rule.

Venus and Serena Williams said that they could beat any ATP player ranked 200 or lower early in their careers. Kaarsten Brasch, ranked 203 at the time, defeated Serena 6-1 and defeated Venus 6-2. These two ladies are among the best women tennis players of all time, yet a journeyman at best just whooped them. And yes, Billie Jean King beat the old geezer. Again, the exception that proves the rule. You thing Billie Jean could have beaten Bjorn Borg?

What does that even have to do with this story????

Thread drift. It's pervasive on the internet.

Gently waves have been known to swell... It starts off subtly...

The only people who have to remain silent are those who want to post hateful comments. There's no trap in play here. A photography competition and exhibition with some beautiful images is happening and I'm gladly reporting it and showing some of the featured art works. You've got to ask yourself why you feel restricted by a "no hate speech" policy.

I stand firmly by my comment.

It must be difficult being so deeply insecure.

Are you... are you saying you are as smart as a mouse, impossible to resist a clear booby trapped cheese?

It's striking the cheese without setting off the trap that is the 'key' (grin)

So more like a high functioning mouse. Got it.

I only recognize two genders but I also don't demonize people for living a lifestyle they want. Where I draw the line is when people tell me I have to do something or change how I live based off of how some one else feels. That's a big "N" "O". They can do what ever they want up until it starts negatively affecting other people. Some of the best people I know are gay or recognize themselves as another gender/ sexual orientation of some sort. They also have never expected me to change how I address them or act around them. We treat each other with respect like a decent human being should and that's all there is to it. They are people too. They have hopes and dreams just like any other person, They deserve to be treated like a human just like the rest of us.

I wonder how long it will be before we see a “This is Species” photo exhibition celebrated in an Fstoppers article that ends with a warning about “hateful comments”.

The picture of the pregnant woman is just boring. The other shots tried to do something special with lighting or composition, but this one is nothing special. The widow from Belarus would be my favorite. Lots of texture and details for my eyes to search around and appreciate.

Most of the others are boring as well.

Noooooo it's not boring, it's revolutionary because it's a 'pregnant man'!

Here's an interesting one, why is it that transgenderism is super supported, and transracialism (Rachel Dolezal) causes nothing but widespread condemnation. I'd argue that two women of different races are genetically MUCH closer than a woman and a man. So why is it such a jump to believe someone could have been born the wrong race?

Personally I feel like a wealthy, upper-middle class, privileged white man, with a butler. Why will no one treat me as such??? (most of all the man who I phone to fetch me snacks and pick up my dry cleaning).

Robert, thank you for this article. All the pictures posted are stunning. My favourite is that by Emma Wilson. It’s a pity that the first is the only one without story and author...

Listen, I've been identifying as an in-shape millionaire for a long time and my bank and friends won't agree with me. Bunch of body-shaming, curancyphobic people.

Disgusting, I'm starting a gofundme to reward your bravery immediately!!

The piece opens with the statement "The winning image raises multiple questions of gender equality." No it doesn't. The winning image raises a number of questions, that's true. questions such as "Who took this? Why did they take it? Why does Belorussian Folk Art lack the concept of "restraint?" None of these questions involve gender, even tangentially. For the record, the text attached to the photo identifies the artist as Andrei Liankevich. Should you attend this overpriced free photography exhibition, I imagine you'll be spending a lot of your time there reading texts.

Not all of them are horrible, although one hopes that the pictures included in this article are not representative. It's possible that Bhattacharjee and Mkosi's photos are the only ones on display that don't suck. Is that a hateful comment?

Mkosi's is pretty good- it reminds me a bit of "Paris is burning" and leaves the impression that this is a moment from a story that is relatively interesting. The composition is good as well. I looked at this photo for a bit, so it held my attention.

Bhattacharjee's photo is truly impressive. The color is excellent, with the two main tones nicely setting each other off. The composition is fantastic- something about the sliiiiightly tilted horizon creates an unsettling feeling. lighting is great as well. If this was my photo, it would be one of the few that I hang on the wall.

I'm not sure what Bhattacharjee's photo really has to do with gender, other than that the subject has (presumably) a gender. I frankly don't care if it's about gender or not- I find most discussions of the subject to be appallingly boring, and the more academic the more tedious.

The problem with the rest of the photos is that they are garbage.

Is hanging out in a grain field a trope in gender fluid photography? There are two such shots here- Serraf has struck out into unknown compositional territory on his by placing his subjects (wait for it)... slightly off center. Amazing. I believe this is a compositional technique where he breaks the frame into three equal sections and places the subject somewhere other than dead center. I hear he's calling it "the rule of thirds." The explanatory paragraph about the photo (you know a photo is extra good when you need a whole bunch of text to tell you why you should care about what you're looking at.) mentions Afro-futurism. Is this that? I suspect not, because this photo is only edgy if you get in a time machine and travel back to the 1950s. Are they brothers? Are they gay? Are questions like this the least bit interesting in 2020?

Bannarjee almost has something, but not quite. This could have been a decent example of the ICM technique, and would have looked good in a largish print size hanging in a breezy AirBnB on the South Carolina coast, except for the annoying intrusion of a badly lit person smack in the middle of an otherwise good try at pictorialism. The only person less interested than the subject in what's happening here is likely the viewer. I suppose one needs a human in the picture in order for it to be submitted to a contest about gender. I don't suppose sea grass has genders. I should consult someone more woke than myself to determine if they in fact do.

Levine and Wilson's photos are awful in the same way. These photos positively reek of sameness. An overwhelming, stultifying sameness that permeates the world of art photography.

They both break the rules of composition and lighting, which could have been interesting if they had broken those rules in interesting ways, which they did not. There are quite a few photographers that need to get hip to the fact that "Dead center and flatly lit" does not equal gravitas. The subjects may certainly have interesting lives (although i submit to the reader that once "Jane used to be Jim!" starts to regularly grace the covers of Condé Nast publications it is, by definition, no longer outré. Repeat after me "Vanity. Fair. Is. Not. Transgressive) but one would never know that unless one perused the text below the photo. I'm an avid reader, so far be it from me to discourage anyone from writing interesting texts, but I cannot suspend my disbelief quite enough to forget that writing and photography are, in fact, different things.

The only artist worse than Levine here is whoever inked those heinous tattoos. Now that was egregiously hateful.

"Are they brothers? Are they gay?"

Ones a 'dude' and the others a 'chick'. Which was which at the time of the shutter clicking, I'm not entirely certain. (fluidity)

I guess I could have figured that out if I had examined the photo more closely, but nothing in the photo compelled me to do that. That's the issue. What is didactic has no bearing on the aesthetic.

Great work!

So many beautiful MEN and WOMEN :)

Is it brave, really? It has corporate sponsorship. It can't be that edgy.

Sarcasm dude...

We need a special font for that.

We do have a special kind of font for it.... it's called con-text! lol

“Harry Pregnant” is a terrible photo. The only thing “interesting” about it is the shock value of a “man” being pregnant. Lame.

That information is only in the text, tellingly. As an image it looks like a holiday snap of a man who drank too much lager and ate too many hot pockets.

If you don't like it, don't read it and move on to the next article. It really doesn't affect you in any meaningful way.

By the way, this is a sight based out of the U.S. Also, to say that only the U.S. and Europe feel this way is both ignorant and incorrect.

If hating homosexuals for no reason is normal where you live then you gotta live in a real shithole of a country.

Definitely more than 3/4 of the world live in countries with worse life standards, education and more human rights violations and abuses than where I live so I don't see why taking them as an example would be a good thing.
If your excuse to live in a shithole society is that most of the world also live like that I feel sorry for you lol.... maybe I shoulnd't because u're just an homophobe asshole tho.

I dunno about 'hating' but this blind acceptance and 'applause' of anything we're told we have to support by the ULTRA-left (a tiny and very vocal percentage of any population) is very surface level. Speak to most people one on one and they've not really changed their views that much at all, I think a hell of a lot of people toe the line because they don't want to lose their job, or be Twitter cancelled.

I'm definitely not supporting ultra leftist ideas (for example I'm definitely against MTF trans competing in women sport because it would just be unfair to biological women or I'm against the "extremist feminist" like the Sarkeesian etc) but this asshole is literally saying he hates gays for no reason at all.

Just saying, once upon a time everyone didn't have to agree with everyone else's lifestyle CHOICES without fear of being marked as some sort of facist.

Uuh being gay is not a choice, and since it really doesn't impact my (or your) life at all what other people do with their genitals (as long as it's consensual and doesn't involve kids) there is no rational reason to oppress or hate them.
And again, be really careful to look at the past, remember that it was normal to keep black people in chains and you would have found (and still do tbh) people claiming that it was legitimate "because black are an inferior race" etc etc.
It says you're from London, look what your country treated Alan Turing, that was just 80 years ago...

I'm not talking about oppressing people, I'm talking about not agreeing with people's choices and being free to voice that where relevant. And I didn't claim being gay was a choice, but being 'trans' is.

England is not 'my' country, none of my family members were here when Alan Turing was locked up, we were still in the country we were placed in when we were taken from our original home.

Comparing racism to not agreeing with people deciding to 'change' their sex is a bit of an insult, but hey whatever. It's the world we live in now!