Sara Davidmann is an artist/photographer. For 14 years (1999-2013) Sara took photographs and carried out oral history recordings in collaboration with people from UK transgender and queer and communities. Self-representation, transgender relationships, children and families form a focus of this work. Sara’s photographs are internationally exhibited and published. Since 2013 Sara’s work on ‘the family’ has focused on her own family and family history. Her project, Ken. To be destroyed, which tells the story of her transgender uncle, has been published as a monograph (Schilt 2016), edited by the writer and curator Val Williams. This project has been exhibited in Germany, Canada, India, Northern Ireland and the UK. Sara is currently working on a project based on her German Jewish family history for which she has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize. Previous awards for her work include a Fulbright Hays Scholarship, four Arts and Humanities Research Council awards, an Association of Commonwealth Universities Fellowship and a Wellcome Trust Small grant. Sara is a Reader in Photography at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. (Davidson S Website: 2019)
Ken to be destroyed, exhibited at London College of Communications, curated by Al Williams who also edited Sarah’s Book. ‘Ken to be destroyed’
This is a fabulous story of Ken, discovered through an inherited archive of letters from their mother Audrey. It is found that Audrey’s brother was transgender by Hazel, Audrey’s sister. Sarah felt that she got to know these family members better through these letters than when in contact with them. At this time I guess there was little support and as her family reconciled to the fact that Ken was transgender it reflects a difficult and painful time. Carbon copies were kept between the 50s and 60s, as well as research documents on what it meant to be transgender. The letters were kept through two house moves and there were likely more letters. There was some sort of conflict found within the letters which showed resolution and the fact that they were to be kept secret as described in the title ‘Ken to be destroyed’.
Sarah re-photographed the family album and made new prints by both analogue and digital methods. The marks and time of damage on the images, led Sarah to work on the images lit back from the back, enlarged and of high resolution. She continued to edit the images using typing fluid, collaging and other techniques, she reproduced the images as if Ken were wearing the dresses or would have liked to have worn them. Sarah also transposed ken into Hazel’s images, then used hand colouring on the black and white negatives.
A second set were made for the purpose of developing texture through chemigrams, allowing Sarah to play with fix and bleach, bringing out the scratches in the images. The disguise within the images, reflects his life as he hides Ken from the public, just as Ken started to do in real life, to withdraw from society as he felt so misplaced.
Sarah through her images, attempted to free Ken in her female persona. Her future work will continue using a female name for Ken, which she now refers to as ‘K’. Sarah realised that the surfaces of the images have texture and hold detail, which changed the way on which she worked. Working more physically with the images.
Fabulous work and this encourages me to continue to experiment with my art through photography and science and how simple manipulations can more clearly tell a story. Working recently with .gifs I realise that developing 3D skills digitally is not that satisfying, and I aim to work with background canvas artwork and layering in order to see if this can emphasise the work of the PhD Students at QIB, in particular, since their objectives in a similar way meet mine. They want to explain their work in the same way that I want to describe the ambiguity, take away any ambivalence and clarify whats complex.