Matt Willis-Jones (b.1973) is a British creator based in Mexico City. A pioneer of digital painting in the '90s, he went on to have a 15 year career in postproduction on major films and TV series before quitting his job to concentrate on his own award winning films, which have played at film festivals around the world. He still writes scripts for other directors but in the last year he returned to his roots as an artist and began making portraits of transexuals in Mexico City.
Mexico City is a place of infinite possibilities, where you can be whatever you want to be - and it is through embracing this chaos that I met my models - people in transition in a city that is always changing. I am no stranger to the trans community and I have always been fascinated by them, not least because they are normal people. But questions arise: They are referred to as 'she' - so where does this leave the definition of 'Woman'? Is it just a code word to refer to a person who doesn't get paid as much? What does it mean to be a 'She'? Does it even matter? It seems differences are only useful for people who want them to exist. A progressive society looks to a time where such distinctions are as relevant to one's place in society as the colour of your eyes.
Ultimately all art is a mirror, and for society to evolve we must start with ourselves - addressing our own personal biases.
I aim to make my work as accessible as possible, to allow those who might otherwise feel uncomfortable with the subject matter to engage with it. Nude images of trans people tend to have an inherent shock value which I work to diminish through technique: Through a combination of photography and digital treatment, I work the images to create a 'safe space' for you to share with my models, to be able to appreciate their beauty and feel their personalities shine through. I layer textures and collage posters (which I rip from the walls of Mexico City) on top of the digital prints - a combining of the familiar with the unfamiliar to reveal what is under the surface of the everyday. The use of grainy photography, and the blending of digital and analogue techniques, results in a finished piece where it is hard to tell where one approach ends and the other begins - a blurring of definition that echoes my philosophy toward sexuality: It is the individual that counts, not technical distinctions..... One might think men are from Mars and women from Venus, but we are all here on Earth.
I have been amazed by the response these images have generated from all over the word with people of wildly differing socio-economic backgrounds - the general feeling is that I am showing them something that has always been there but presenting it in a way that allows them to look at it without shame - which is wonderful.
It's always hard to choose a handful of images that represent one's work, but here are six pieces taken from my portraits of transexuals in Mexico City.
Link to website: http://www.mattwillisjones.com/mtsp.html
Link to Ello page (which includes works in progress): https://ello.co/mattwillisjones