Leslie Feinberg: telling stories through photos


I recently came across this flickr page, from Leslie Feinberg (pictured above).
Leslie is best known for Stone Butch Blues, a novel about queer folks in the 1950s and the struggles they faced, including constant violence and police brutality.
Leslie’s body of work includes Transgender Warriors and Trans Liberation, two non-fiction books, and Drag King Dreams, a second novel.
Leslie, now dealing with a degenerative disease and also prompted by hir move from hir home of 17 years in Jersey City due to these health issues, has taken to documenting the world and telling stories through photographs. More about the photos:

I lost the ability to visualize as a child, after being physically forced to stop using my left hand. Hard to imagine today, perhaps, that left-handedness in people was once considered a sign of “sinister” character.
As my ability to use my left hand withered, my ability to visualize waned. I lost all ability to close my eyes and “picture” anything in my mind: a copper penny, a lover’s face. So leaving New York City, my home of more than 35 years, and Jersey City, where Minnie Bruce and I had made our home for so many years, presented me with an especially emotionally painful loss of memory–like an impending hard drive crash. In addition, I was coping with neuro-degenerative disease and its neuro-toxic byproducts.
With only days to relocate, I began taking photos with our little silver point-and-shoot, and continued to take thousands more in the months that followed as we moved to three more apartments and I traveled for care–a kind of geographic and emotional GPS of where I was and how I got here.
Working on so many visual images has had, I believe, a big impact on my brain, my memory storage and retrieval. My ability to visualize is coming back for the first time since childhood.
These photographs are the unexpected form and shape of my memory cabinet. They also reveal the geographic and social isolation of severe illness and resulting disabilities. This body of work reveals my inner struggle for articulation at a time when illness and disability–and discrimination and prejudice–were silencing my voice.
Taking photographs may be beyond me now, because of illness. If I can’t take new photographs, I will work on narratives from my already existing photo cabinet of 10,000 photos. I will continue to try to organize a digital “struggle memory project” and publish photos online. And this fall and winter I hope to find support for a project focusing on the relationship of disability to technology.

Check out the photos, Leslie’s books, and you can even follow Leslie on Twitter.

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3 Comments

  1. Ashtree
    Posted February 15, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Holy crap! I didn’t know ze lived in Syracuse now. I live there!

  2. sammylif
    Posted February 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I took a class with Minnie Bruce last semester (and loved it, and love her so much) and I’ve always wanted to meet Leslie. It’s weird how much I feel like I know Leslie through Minnie Bruce.

  3. Gordon
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Re: pronouns.
    For her superb novel Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy invented a futurespeak in which there are no gender-specific pronouns. The nominative is “person”, and the other forms are “per”, “pers”, and “perself”. That sounds terminally awkward, but when you read the dialog aloud, it rolls right off your tongue.
    Does anyone out there besides me think this is a great idea?

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