On Christopher Street there are all kinds of sexual orientations and gender identities, endless possibilities of potential selves: transgender, transsexual, non-binary, genderqueer, femme, butch, cross-dresser, drag kings, drag queens, and many other identities that shift, adapt, and challenge our understanding of gender. This street nestled in the middle of New York City’s Greenwich Village is heralded as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Today, the intersection at Christopher and Hudson Streets has been renamed “Sylvia Rivera Way,” after the pioneering trans-activist and the annual LGBTQ pride parade ends its procession on Christopher Street, where the revolution began at the Stonewall Inn.
Renowned photographer Mark Seliger, best known for his portraits of celebrities, musicians, and artists, has called the West Village home for nearly two decades. For his latest book, On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories, his curiosity inspired him to shoot a handful of portraits—documentary style—in hopes of capturing the color, flamboyant characters, and theatre of a famous, but vanishing neighborhood.
What Seliger discovered was a nightly carnival of personalities that open up the visual discourse about sexuality and the constant ebb and flow of the transgender world we all inhabit today. The end result is a collection of 74 beautiful, black and white portraits, all taken with Seliger’s Hasselblad camera, and never-before-published.
These forthcoming portraits of trans people on Christopher Street combined with their moving and deeply personal stories remind us of our need for sanctuary, for a space to call our own. Their presence challenges us to redefine home, community, and ownership. Their presence challenges us to stop and reflect. No longer will we remain idle and pass by them in fear and prejudice. We will stand with them, recognize them, and see them. These are our streets, and these are our people. On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories stands out as some of Seliger’s most powerful work.