Documenting a gender-confirming journey

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Fin Serck-Hanssen’s tender portrait of his friend as she undergoes half a decade of gender-confirming surgeries is now published as a photobook, Hedda

Today, services for gender-confirming care in Oslo, Norway, remain slow, convoluted, and restrictive. Applicants endure long waitlists for assessment and treatment, and the majority are denied it altogether. A 2017 report indicated that the country’s only clinic providing government-funded gender-affirming care, the Nasjonal Behandlingstjeneste for Transseksualisme (NBTS) in Oslo, accepts approximately a quarter of annual referrals. 

In 2015, Hedda, then in her mid-twenties, began her gender-confirming journey in Norway. Her mother invited the family’s close friend, Norwegian photographer Fin Serck-Hanssen, who had known Hedda since she was a baby, to document the experience. He agreed, accompanying her while she underwent over half a decade of treatment. Given the care available in Norway, and the length of time involved, Hedda travelled elsewhere, raising funds herself — from Oslo to Buenos Aires and Bangkok for cosmetic surgeries and a vaginoplasty. 

The project, now published as the photobook Hedda, documents a journey of gender confirmation. But, it is also a portrait of Hedda herself. “I was just trying to see her as I see her,” says Serck-Hanssen, “not focusing so much on gender.” The book itself echoes this approach. Hedda’s selfies punctuate Serck-Hanssen’s gentle documentation of her treatment. And the photographer also captures Hedda photographing and gazing at herself — the work becoming a mixture of his perception and her own. 

Heavy black ink veils several of the photographs, including the publication’s front cover — a design conceived of by designers Mevis & Van Deursen, to obscure images about which Hedda felt uncomfortable. Indeed, Serck-Hanssen’s project and the book itself endeavour to reflect Hedda’s journey. A window into her experiences and one that Serck-Hanssen hopes might support other individuals embarking on gender-confirming treatment themselves. 

Hedda is published by Loose Joints.

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.