The icelandic photographer Gísli Hjálmar Svendsen has spent the last two years, on and off, in Thailand where he follows a group of ladyboys and photograhs them in their daily lives. He means to publish the photos in a book and thereby diminish the prejudices that the kathoey experience in modern society. “It´s so sad,“ Gísli says about the circumstances of ladyboys in Thailand in the last few decades or so. “In buddishm transgender people and feminine gays, the kathoey, have a special place and were considered almost holy. That tradition lived for hundreds of years but in the last decades, as Thai society tries to become more westernized they are experiencing huge difficulties. They have become outcasts instead of sacred beings. I know that my photos are not going to change that, but I do hope that they will make people understand a little what it means to be a ladyboy in Thailand.“ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathoey). Gísli‘s quest started this project 2014, almost by accident. He went to a workshop for photographers in Thailand where everyone had to choose a subject from Thai society to make a series of photos to describe the lives of the inhabitants.
Originally he wanted to make photo series of the huge difference between the rich and the poor in Bangkok, but that was considered by his teachers to be too huge subject for him to be able to do it properly. “Somewhere down my list was this idea about photographing the ladyboys and as the other idea did not work I settled on that. I had no idea what I was getting myself into,“ he says laughing. In order to gain access to the group of ladyboys Gísli contacted one of them, Nancy, who eventually became his friend and got a photo serie of her own. Since they met she has been diagnosed with a severe disease and has not long to live, which has prompted Gísli to take her story out of the ladyboy‘s equation and make a separate photo serie about her. “She is one of the most remarkable persons I‘ve ever met,“ he says. “She grew up on a farm, as many of the ladyboys did, and took it upon her self to go to the city to work as a sex worker to provide for her family. Her brother did not agree to this and does not speak to their parents any longer, which of course causes great sadness to their mother. It´s not talked about within the family but I could sense that her mother does not like the profession Nancy is working in, but it‘s the only way for her to get enough money to keep the family going, so it‘s a hush hush subject.“ The following pictures shows some of the Ladyboys I got to know a little bit and take their photos. I’m not familiar with their life story, but they all work at Cabaret shows in Bangkok. (The text is from the website: gayiceland.is)