Fin Serck-Hanssen’s Hedda (Loose Joints Publishing, 2021) is a tender portrait of a young woman’s gender-confirming journey. The book follows Hedda, a Norwegian in her early 20s, over the course of five years as she travels between Oslo, Buenos Aires, and Bangkok to undergo cosmetic surgeries and a vaginoplasty. Serck-Hanssen captures the physical realities of Hedda’s medical procedures and recoveries unflinchingly, but focuses most strongly on Hedda’s graceful, gentle face. More than bandages or staples, Hedda’s expressions — captured again and again in Serck-Hanssen’s pictures — are what most powerfully register this life-changing process.
This is not the first time that Serck-Hanssen documents the body under transformation and stress. His previous projects have depicted HIV and AIDS survivors, traditional Chinese “cupping,” and recently sutured medical wounds. In this project, Serck-Hanssen photographs Hedda as she faces intense, and at times excruciating, change.
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The book is described as a collaborative project — Serck-Hansen is a long-time friend of Hedda’s mother and has known Hedda since she was a baby. Together, Hedda and Serck-Hansen decided to pair his lushly detailed, medium-format portraits with her informal iPhone selfies.
In a series of photos, Serck-Hanssen captures Hedda as she examines parts of her body with hand mirrors and her phone before and after surgical procedures. These intimate confrontations, and their later synthesis in Hedda’s posed but frank selfies, are not just signposts along Hedda’s history. They also point to the ways we define ourselves in the 21st century, where asserting ourselves aspirationally through social media is a constant occupation.
Even as they record Hedda’s evolving trajectory, Serck-Hanssen’s photos look to the past. His softly lit, classically composed images have a painterly, art historical tone. In them, Hedda — with her delicate lips, expressive eyes, and loose curls — could be one of da Vinci’s Renaissance ladies: a timeless paragon of beauty.
Hedda by Fin Serck-Hanssen is available through Loose Joints Publishing online.