“Sites of Dreaming” is a photography exhibition that documents the lives of transgender individuals living in Finland, with a particular focus on the often-overlooked and more mundane aspects of their lives. This exhibition marks the end of a long-term project that began in 2019 and will conclude in 2023.

The purpose of this work was twofold: firstly, to bring attention to the disturbing state of transgender health-“care” in Finland and secondly, to counteract the violence inherent in that process by using photography to document moments of care and safety for the subjects. The project aims to highlight the many ways in which my community showed up for one another throughout our transitions. The images show domestic moments of cooking meals, changing bandages, buying groceries, and showering one another after surgery. 

The recent annulment of the former transgender law means that the often absurd psychological assessment previously required for individuals who desired to alter their gender marker is no longer a necessity. While this legislative action is a progressive step forward, it is crucial to acknowledge that it falls short of protecting the rights of non-binary persons and trans children, meaning further advocacy is needed and the fight continues.

Through my work in “Sites of Dreaming” I try to offer a more complete and nuanced view of trans life. Instead of limiting individuals to their struggles, I highlight the multifaceted nature of their experiences. My goal is to challenge the oversimplified and inaccurate narratives that are prevalent in society. By focusing on the ordinary and everyday aspects of their lives, I aim to showcase the richness and complexity of trans experiences that often go overlooked in favour of more traumatic narratives.

Photography has played a vital role in the lives of queer and trans people throughout history. Images have been used to document key moments in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, to provide a sense of community and belonging, and to challenge stereotypes and prejudices. I believe that photography remains an essential tool for queer and trans people today, providing a means to create ourselves through play and fantasy and to document and preserve our histories in the face of historical erasure.

Shia Conlon is an artist whose work centers on the power of storytelling as a tool for trans liberation. For Conlon, desire and fantasy are important parts of trans life, as they provide a means of fighting back against transphobic legislation and attitudes. His work is deeply influenced by the fetishistic nature of photography, as well as by the history of queer photography and cinema that has come before him. He sees his practice as part of a legacy of using art to resist simplistic narratives of marginalised communities. In addition to his artistic practice, he is also the editor of a transgender writing and art magazine, which donates its entire profits to mutual aid for the trans community. His work is rooted in collaboration and would not exist without the vulnerability and openness of the queer and trans community. He has exhibited works in NYC, London, Dublin, Helsinki, San Francisco & elsewhere. His work has been published in New York Times, i-D, PhMuseum, Huffington Post, Nuori Voima, Astra & many others.

The exhibition was supported by the Kone Foundation.