2nd Place, 'Henkō' by Massimo Giovannini
Henkō - a Japanese word composed of kanjis meaning “change” and “variable/unusual light” - conveys the idea of a shifting light which transforms our perception of the objects it illuminates. The work is not intended to trick the viewer, only to introduce doubt; to make them question preconceived ideas on gender and the presumed veracity of even the most candid photographic image. Apart from retouches to soften or accentuate the Adam’s apple, the images were not Photoshopped in post-production. Only lighting, make up and the subject’s facial expressions convey the symbolic gender reassignment. The choice of format - traditional photographic portraits in diptychs - and the seemingly simple image conceal the complexity of the subject matter, forcing the viewer to question the medium and their ability to see through it. If lighting and a skin-deep makeover can make viewers question their understanding of gender, perhaps the border between masculine and feminine is hazier than we are led to believe?