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Misia-O’ Talks Trans-It-I-On

Who is Misia-O'? The question is not so much who, but what she stands for. Based between various creative hubs including Paris, London, and New York, behind the pseudonym inspired by the artist's muse is an international creative director involved in projects across the art, design, and photography spectrum. Misia-O' uses her photographic projects to spread a message of awareness, acceptance, and tolerance achieved through education and understanding as far as it will reach, and to anyone willing to really look. Her multi-media documentary Trans-It-I-On will span three cities, launching in Paris November, 25 2016 at Galerie 16: 8 Passage des Abbesses, 75018 Paris and continuing into London at The Camera Club Gallery from January 16, 2017 through February 10, 2017, before ending in New York. Each instalment explores different themes starting with "What is gender?" to questions of transgenderism in Western culture, as well as an exploration of transgenderism vs. transsexuality.

Trans-It-I-On was conceived, executed and curated by Misia-O' and features over 30 photographs of men and women offering us a deeply intimate look into their paths of transition, one often wrought with pain and difficulty before rebirth; shedding light on the duality of the feminine and masculine beauty in each of the protagonists.

Misia-O's stunning portraits are deeply powerful, capturing the past, present and future of an immensely complex transition and gender-transcending identity within a single frame. Gender separated by time, society, will and true self, her photographs come alive, the subjects shifting form before your eyes. Misia-O's photographic project goes far beyond art exhibition, it is a message, a movement that needs to be experienced to be understood, because ultimately, her protagonists are a mirror back into ourselves, asking the viewer to question the paradigms of gender, society, and our very humanity.

We met up with Misia-O' to gain further insight into this mysterious creative's powerful message...
Experience Trans-It-I-On, Paris

Galerie 18, 
8 Passage des Abbesses 75018 Paris

November 25, 2016–December 2, 2016
Monday – Friday | 10:00–18:00

CM: Who are you?
My name is Misia-O’. A name inspired by Misia Sert, the Queen of Paris during the Belle Époque, married 3 times to powerful artists. She was in turn a great pianist of La Belle Epoque and the muse of painters such as Bonnard, Vuillart,Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir…., a friend of Cocteau, Diaghilev and Chanel, she financed the Russian Ballets for over 10 years...hypnotic and elusive, an artist, a sensual muse and a philanthropist who hated convention and lived only for the arts.

CM: What is your background?
Fashion, design, photography. Everything is linked. Creativity is broad, multi-sensorial and multi-disciplinary. Always has been.

CM: When did you first become interested in photography? And what is it about this medium that attracts you?

I have always loved photography, ever since I was a child. I will not dwell in talking about my first camera I have had several and played with them for years. But I took up photography seriously in the last year and a half.

Photography is a broad medium : fine art, documentary, fashion, archives etc...It is extremely powerful. What interests me most is how it can be used to serve humanity and the environment. Most people do not read much anymore, instead we live in a hyper visual world, photographs can deliver extremely strong messages.

CM: How was the idea for Trans-It-I-On born?

This came totally out of the blue. I was working on a portrait project, looking at photographing various emotions. The model who came forward was Victoria. A trans female. Thus was the start of a friendship...and the beginning of Trans-it-I-on.

CM: Can you tell us more about your muses? How did you find them?

Victoria asked me several times if I was happy to photograph her and if I had read her bio properly. I had. I knew she was born in a man’s body and transitioned to be a woman. But I did not understand why she was so concerned. In my view, I was photographing a woman and fully accepted who she was.
But what transpired is that her identity is defined as a trans-woman. Not as a woman.
I did not expect that as-truly- I knew very little about this subject. We talked a while about what this meant to her, and I decided to shoot a ‘transition’ shot to reflect her history.

CM: What did you discover about trans identities while doing the project that you had perhaps not fully realised before starting out?

So much. And please note: I will never pretend to fully understand this subject-no one can, unless they are trans people. And even then, there are so many layers and variations, as in our cisgender world, there is no one answer.

However, this is what I have learnt so-far:

What I Discovered from Various Surveys and Research

• Transgenderism has nothing to do with sexuality. Trans people can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, assexual and any other sexual denomination there is , exactly as cisgenders (cisgenders= people born in a man or female body and living their lives as man or female, a life matching their ‘assigned’ gender)
• Trans people are persecuted internationally: It’s a shocking fact that transgender people continue to face staggering levels of discrimination and violence. In 2013, 72% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, face shockingly high rates of murder, homelessness, and incarceration.
• Awareness is finally coming up–at least in western societies–via transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox It is great for awareness, but not so great as it reflects sensationalism and uber glamour most trans people can not identify with. Trans-It-I-on is about showing the humanity, normality and equality of trans people as people in our complex societies.

CM: Most gratifying moment?

The new friendships with all my models and their trust and validation for this project.

CM: What kind of camera+equipment did you shoot with?

I am a Canon adept 🙂

CM: Can you tell us more about your studio vibe? Music? Silences? Changes depending on the subject?

My shoots are super casual-it is like the continuation of a conversation, but through visuals. It is a true collaboration between the models and I, and perhaps even more importantly,
a true and strong connection and understanding between us.

CM: What do you hope people will take away from this project? What larger message do you hope it will transmit to the world?

Ha. The world is becoming dangerously extreme and chaotic all round. It is super important to vehicle messages of tolerance, acceptance, understanding and awareness and to fight for what we once took for granted: freedom and democracy.
Thus in turn to hopefully open the minds of as many people as possible.

CM: Do you already have an idea of what comes next, your next Trans-It-I-On esque photography project?

Oh yes. Moving on to other international territories - The subject is deeply fascinating, powerful and multi-layered, so I will be exploring other facets of it via other exhibitions.

CM: Anything else you would like our readers to think about?

What is Gender ? Have you ever wondered why we are born, assigned a gender ?
Photo © Misia-O'
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