Lana | Transformations
Photos by Ruth Dick
LANA | TRANSFORMATIONS Photos by Ruth Dick
“I wanted to get my power back! I also wanted to whole heartedly love me for the true me. By getting those implants removed I could finally be comfortable in my own skin and finally completely have self love.” – Lana
Through her lens, Ruth Dick gives us insight into the journey of Lana, a trans woman, who had her implants removed after ten years of living with them. In a series of raw and deeply personal photos, the process is documented in such a tangible way that we as onlookers are both shocked at their intimacy and engaged in a personal connection with Lana’s journey. We also feel softly and keenly aware of the numerous looming factors that surround these photos: Lana’s identity as a trans woman, the politics of the female body, a woman’s relationship with her own skin, the constant feminine struggle with patriarchal beauty standards, and a woman’s shifting bond with her own breasts as they undergo transformations (to name just a few). And yet, amidst it all, there is a sense of solace in seeing Lana’s body transform from a curation to satisfy others into a vessel that holds love for oneself, and declares ownership of one’s own beauty.
This series of photographs is elegantly balanced. Imagine walking on a tightrope, weighted on one side by the beauty of the images themselves: the smooth skin and highlighted curves of Lana’s figure, the composition and light quality of the scenes, the bare staging and focus on the central figure, the emotion and the space left over. On the other side, the balancing act is loaded by the nuanced message of empowerment: a woman, a trans woman, becoming increasingly comfortable in her own skin and the contextual weight that carries. Ruth and Lana, together, execute it exquisitely.
Lana’s decision to remove her breasts came after realizing her left implant capsule had detached from her rib cage. Simultaneously, she was growing tired of her implant size and inquired of her male doctor about removing them completely instead of having surgery to fix them. He responded by asking why she would want to remove them completely when they were just ‘so perfect.’
A woman’s body is a battleground. It has been used by men throughout history in pleasure, politics, economy, and power. We see how tightly society holds its grasp on regulating our bodies – telling us what is desirable and what is – or not – permitted every step of the way. There is nothing as beautiful, jarring, or political as a woman staking claim on her body as her own. There is nothing so evocative as exposing the woman’s body in relation to herself alone, for embedded within that relationship is a cascading series of other micro and macro revolutions. Embedded within that relationship is her story.
Part of Lana’s journey is also the story of how bodies change and shift over time. Breasts, once flat, grow perky, then shift and flatten, sag or bloat over time. Women undergoing surgical procedures of breast reduction, breast implants, vasectomies, and implant removal are not only going through physical transformations but heightened emotional and identity shifts, as well. Lana’s identity as a trans woman adds a number of other layers to the already complex demands society imposes on the female figure. As a woman, when I look at the photos, I feel one with Lana, understanding the pressure we feel as women when it comes to our bodies and the self-imposed and society-induced ways we torque ourselves to fit into the standards of feminine beauty.
However, I also gain insight into experience that is not my own. As we begin Pride month, these photos give us a very intimate and personal glimpse into the raw and real journey of queer and trans persons navigating hyper feminized beauty standards and expectations. Thanks to the intimate lens of the photographer and the generous and powerful vulnerability of Lana, we are given a sense of what it means to be trans amid our cultural context while aging and maturing through a gradient of nuanced and ever-shifting relationships with self.
The openness and understanding between the photographer and the subject is tangible. Lana describes that she felt safe to express herself and work on this project with Ruth and notes the natural and relaxed vibe a female photographer brings to a making a photo. She also mentions that Ruth was open to Lana’s ideas and created a collaborative environment as they worked together.
Ruth, who describes her process as “let’s see what happens” with minimal staging, also points out the open collaboration that marked this photo series. “She (Lana) has a fantastic eye, so is a dream to collaborate with. It is her story, and I’ve done my best to let her lead.”
The resulting photos are intimate and resounding. They are bold in how they dare to display a woman denouncing patriarchal concepts of beauty. A woman, one who has the added intersectionality of being trans, takes back her body, reclaims it as her own while coming to terms with the shifting form and contours of the body she calls home.
Instead of being told how to look and how to respond, Lana pushes back: choosing how she looks— answerable only to herself— and showcasing a celebration as her response. We are witnesses to her empowerment. She has grabbed the reins and taken back her body as her own, challenging others to do the same.
Photographer Ruth Dick is originally from Winnipeg and now resides in Ottawa. Her work is held in private collections in Canada, the United States, France, and the UK. Prior to its closing, she was represented by the Cube Gallery in Ottawa. She collaborated with Royal Canadian Academy of Arts member designer Paddye Mann on a book of Mann’s work for the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. She has also collaborated with fashion designer Muriel Dombret, who designed a collection around Ruth’s work which was launched in conjunction with an exhibit of the photographs. Primarily self-taught, her formal training is in philosophy and law.
~ Posted by Paulette Cameron