Virtually Invisible makes non-binary identities visible and serves as guidance for those whose identities collide with the pre-existing gender structure.

Non-binary people don’t identify as men or women, which can be a challenge within a society where a binary-based model strongly determines the general course of human experience. It defines social politics and how it feels to grow up as a trans person, non-binary, or gender queer. Virtually Invisible tells stories about growing up in this environment, the clashes with the official authorities, and finding a path of your own.

Kimmo. ”Most likely, I would’ve killed myself if I hadn’t had a child at 18. Maybe when you don’t care about yourself at all you need something to look after in order to look after yourself as well. Later I found a new person. We got married. For several years, I lived in that family bubble, with no contact to a queer scene, alone with my thoughts and with nothing to relate them to. The father of my smaller kids is a crazy good guy. He was so supportive of all of this, which is incredible considering he got married and had children and then had to admit, “Alright, my wife doesn’t even like cis men.” I was scared I might be wrong. Perhaps I’m just unstable as hell, never happy anywhere, and then I break my family for it. Fortunately that fear has now been proven wrong.” © Jenni Holma. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2018.

Non-binary people often have to defend their looks, gender expression, new name, or settle for the wrong pronouns. While photographing, I wanted the participants to be in control, determining the condition of the shoot on their own terms, thus attempting to dismantle and share the power between the photographer and the photographed.

I captured the encounters in pictures that convey the subtleties and tenderness of these people as well as the strength that is required when you have to fight for validation.

Viima. ”Sometimes I imagine a point where we enter into ground zero and are transferred to a whole new planet. What kind of laws and societal structures should there be so that everyone could be themselves without hurting each other? I’ve had a cover picture in Facebook with the quote ‘Free yourself from limiting beliefs.’ I also have to do the same myself and help others to not automatically assume things. When you don’t assume, you’re more free. Is it always necessary to know? Is it necessary to ask? Why does it matter?” © Jenni Holma. Finalist, LensCulture Portrait Awards 2018.

These portraits present the diversity of gender: there are as many ways to live as there are people, and each one deserves a closer look. The themes that artists undertake are not random or insignificant.

A shared reality is created through photographs, drawings, and putting works onto gallery walls. I hope that displaying the problems within the binary gender model assists in questioning our entire fixed and normative system.

—Jenni Holma

Jenni Holma’s series “Virtually Invisible” was singled out for distinction in our Portrait Awards 2018. Explore work by all 39 of the winners, finalists, and jurors’ picks.