Today, a new exhibition opens at The Photographers' Gallery in London, showcasing a collection of rare historical images of people cross-dressing for the camera.
The pictures, of which the subjects are largely unknown, date from 1880 and feature individuals posing for the camera while deliberately dressed or gesturing in a manner traditionally thought of as relating to the ‘opposite sex’.
Today, with gender and sexuality more fluid and personal than ever before, these pictures provide a fascinating insight into a time when traditional gender roles were enforced.
The amateur photographs come from the personal archives of French filmmaker and photography collector Sébastien Lifshitz, who would trawl the likes of eBay, junk shops, flea markets and garage sales to amass his collection. As it grew bigger and bigger, it enabled him to create a more informed and nuanced history of cross-dressing culture, one which spans classes and nationalities, attitudes and genders.
Lifshitz’s collection even includes some images of Marie-Pierre Pruvot, an Algerian-born French transsexual woman better known by her stage name Bambi, who, for 20 years, performed at Parisian transgender showgirl revue Le Carrousel de Paris. Pruvot is still alive today and Lifshitz’s film about her won Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013.
The Photographers' Gallery says the exhibition will offer a fascinating context for today’s diverse queer and trans community and pre-empts a world where self-expression is celebrated.
Click through to see some of the images on display.