Trans is a photographic portrait project about people who have had an organ transplant and how this experience becomes woven into their personal and biographical narratives. The possibility of living thanks to another person’s organ somehow transgresses the Western essentialist view of individuality and subjectivity - the notion of a unified, self-contained body. As such, Trans aims to look at how organ transplantation can affect people’s sense of self-identity.
Individuals have experienced taste, personality or behavioral changes after an organ transplant, which they sometimes relate to the traits of their donor. Recent biomedical research in the USA suggests that the brain does not have an exclusive role in ‘data processing’ and that it may be possible for a transplanted organ to connect a recipient with the donor’s memories. Despite such research, the theory of cellular memory has not been scientifically proven and changes to donor recipients are currently explained as a result of improving health, medication or psychological shock.
There is no question that an organ transplant is a life-changing experience, full of emotional, embodied and social complexities. Often these translate into certain fears and desires regarding, for example, the acceptance or rejection of the organ; the integrity of one’s identity; mixed feelings towards the donor’s family, such as gratitude, guilt, health responsibility or debt; the variable levels of anonymity between donor families and recipients and; an urge to make sense of what may be perceived as a second chance at life.
The photographs and texts that make up Trans were created using a combination of interview and portraiture. Participants were interviewed first in order to evoke their experience of transplantation as well as to agree to the location, setting and approach for the portraits. During the photographic sessions, the focus was placed on the affective and emotional aspects that had emerged in conversation.
I would like to thank the participants of this project for their collaboration and trust.
If you would like to know about how to register as an organ donor, please visit www.uktransplant.org.uk
However, if you wish to become and organ donor, the most effective way is to tell your relatives.
About the trilogy
Trans is the third part of a trilogy that aims to question what it is to be human by exploring issues of subjectivity in relation to health and disease; the imaginary around the body and its control; and ‘lack’ as a corporeal condition. The first project of this trilogy, Sleepless, looks at people who sleep very little. The second project, No Ma, is about women who are not mothers and are certain they will never be. One of the key themes of the trilogy is to visually explore aspects of the human condition that are not visible.
The motivation behind this trilogy is to address vital experiences that somehow transgress the notion of a 'normal' human subject (established and defined by social norms through scientific/cultural discourse) in order to challenge conventional understandings of the human subject.