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Jess Kohl, the artist who shoots trans communities of the World
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Through her shots, Jess brings out the deep understanding and immense sensitivity she feels toward the subjects depicted. Without judgment, she seeks to amplify the voices of the unheard, through poetic shots. Sometimes provocative.

Her poetic visual Storytelling of the Indian Queers and Femmenielli of Scampia

Jess Kohl, class 1991 – is a British filmmaker and photographer whose work focuses primarily on subcultures considered on the margins of society.

Her style is cinematic, raw, intimate.

Through her shots, Jess brings out the deep understanding and immense sensitivity she feels toward the subjects depicted. Without judgment, she seeks to amplify the voices of the unheard, through poetic shots. Sometimes provocative.

Her talent has naturally led her to work on commercial projects, music videos, and global brands such as Nike, Google, Tinder, On Running, and Speedo, and she has been an award winner worldwide and a nominee for the One World Media Award.

She has chronicled the Philippine ghettos’ “war on drugs,” followed several skinheads groups in Malaysia, and documented Queer life in India and Naples.

In particular, we will focus on the latter two works for Pride Month celebrations: “Nirvana: the largest gathering of transgender women in Asia” and “Queens of Scampia: the transgender community in Naples”

Nirvana, 2018

In India, trans, hijra, or queer women are considered a bad omen and bearers of misfortune: disowned by their families of origin, they are forced into a life of prostitution or begging.

These individuals are called “bad men” because they cannot (or will not) fulfill the social functions on which Indian society is based: marrying, procreating, working, and passing on traditions to new generations.

Despite ghettoization and castrating social rules, for eighteen days a year, the small village of Villipurgam in Tamil Nadu turns into “Koovagam”: the largest gathering of transgender women in Asia.

Jess followed two trans people who took part in the gathering: from the preparation, to the emotional meeting with their community: Aliyah Kahn and Chintu Dolly.

“Nirvana” the photo book that grew out of this project, is a tale of color, empathy and endless sweetness, in which Jess empathizes and immerses herself in the Indian LGBTQ+ community.

Queens of Scampia, 2019

The following year, Jess documented the “Femmenielli” community of Scampia – a suburban neighborhood north of Naples and in the Quartieri Spagnoli.

Here, the British young photographer was able to collect testimonies and depict the special example of gender fluidity that has been living through the Neapolitan tradition for hundreds of years.

Trans people are called “Femmeniello,” which is a combination of Female plus – ello, a male suffix.

Just as in Thailand where Kathoey or third gender exists, femmenielli are honored by Neapolitan culture as a folkloric phenomenon to be preserved and defended.

Not only that: according to ancient tradition, they are bringers of good fortune and occupy a privileged position in society, even within the observant Catholic religion.

In “Queens of Scampia” Jeff recounts how this community helps each other, lives in harmony with the neighborhood and relies on a deep sense of belonging.

‘E’ Femminiell’ are active everywhere: from the folk show, to the “tombola scostumata” that take place in the low-rises around the city; you can meet them at the market, intent on selling fish, fruits and vegetables or with the “Bancariello” of smuggled cigarettes.

They populating the streets of Naples with false eyelashes, tight dresses and stiletto heels, they join in officious marriage rites, legitimized and warmly celebrated by the people of the neighborhood. 

The incredible social value of Jess Kohl’s reportages, add to the anthropological material, the human and emotional component.

Characteristic to make each of her works, a moment of deep reflection on the social roles we are called to represent and the delicacy of human emotions.

 

WORDS: Manuela Palma

ALL RIGHTS www.jesskohl.com

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