Identity

In Photos: A Day in the Life of a Transgender Model

"This is Fiona and she wanted her story to be told."

by Sammi Taylor
May 31 2017, 6:23pm

Ingetje Tadros is an award-winning social documentary photographer, based in Broome, Western Australia. She is known for her shadowing, spending every minute of the allotted time with her subject and capturing their every "mundane" moment.

For one week Tadros shadowed Fiona Solis—a successful transgender model, YouTuber, and entrepreneur—staying in her Bangkok apartment and getting to know the 29-year-old, who is originally from the Philippines. The result is an intimate portrait of Fiona's everyday life, the woman behind the polished new-media presence.

Broadly sat down with Tadros to hear about her method, and the trust and friendship that developed between photographer and subject.

Fiona, shopping. All photos by Ingetje Tadros

BROADLY: Hi Ingetje. How did you first meet Fiona?
Ingetje Tadros: One day in Bangkok, I saw this glamorous person walking by. I love people, and I love people who stand out. So we got talking, and we got along really, really well. She said, "I'm going to have a shower," and I said, "Can I come with you? And take photos?"

And that was that?
Yeah. We stayed in contact for a little while [after that], and then I came back to Bangkok and asked if I could shadow her for a week or so and take [more] photos. I really like shadowing; it's very intimate and the process is quite simple.

Read More: Witnessing Love Between Two Transgender People

I stayed with Fiona. She had a very small apartment with just one double bed, and you could hardly walk around the bed. It was a really tiny room. I stayed with her in the apartment, slept with her in the bed for seven nights, and shot the essay while I was there.

That sounds about as immersive as it gets.
It was. We partied all night, every night, and would sleep all day until 2 PM or 3 PM. Then we'd get dressed up and go out again. She'd put her wigs on me and do my make-up. I was 54 at the time and she is 26, but it was so cool. We had a lot of fun.

How do you take the photos?
It's very natural. I explained to Fiona that I'm in my subjects' space 24/7. But there are boundaries, of course: If it's ever too much, I can go away for a bit and come back later. But basically, I like to photograph everything: whether you're angry, sad, eating, naked, talking, whatever. I don't ask for any kind of posing. It's just like hanging out with a good friend and taking photos. There's no pressure.

What kind of insight into Fiona's community did shadowing her afford you?
A lot of her friends are also transgender women from the Philippines; they come to Bangkok for surgery because it's the cheapest and the best. We would have a group of seven, going out each night, and I would spend time with them too. It's about respect but also having fun together. Some of the women had only just had their breast surgery, so we talked about the post-operative pain they had been through.

You've described your photos as "confronting and provocative." How do you get people to pay attention to your work?
Some people don't like to see reality. There's nothing posed or made-up, it's all real life. This is Fiona and she wanted her story to be told. And I want to tell her story, because people aren't telling it. If you don't like it, you [can] switch your laptop off.

What, for you, is the ideal response when you share a photography project?
I want people to ask themselves questions: Why do I like it? Why don't I like it? Is it too confronting? Why is it too confronting? Because it's real? Put yourself in the shoes of the subject. I like reality; I like it a lot.

Tagged:
LGBTQ
bangkok
photo story
AUNZ
Fiona Solis
Ingetje Tadros