The Face Contender: John Wheatley

Photographer: John Wheatley

This photo is my attempt to visually communicate the psychological experience of living as a closeted transgender individual. It depicts the sometimes overwhelming feelings of shame, ugliness, self-loathing, sadness and isolation. This was a project that I had thought about doing for a long time, but the idea for the shot didn’t really crystalize until I happened to see an old medicine cabinet in a dumpster one day. When I saw my reflection in the cabinet’s mirror, the concept for this photograph took form. The image of a scruffy, badly made-up, anguished face reflected in a discarded bathroom mirror seemed like a powerful focal point for my photograph. The elements of the scene beyond the face—an isolated corner, an ill-fitting dress, leg hair through nylons—provide context and reinforce the mood. It took several decades for me to grow brave enough to create this image, to reveal this much of myself. I am 42 years old. Until now, I have been silent about who I am. I am ending my silence. This photograph is my statement. I am gender queer.

Pentax K-5, Pentax SMC DA 50mm F/1.8 lens, natural light, edited with Lightroom 5.7

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