In the frame:
Allie Crewe

The photographer’s debut book is a collection of trans portraits, part of her work focusing on stories of transformation and giving a voice to the powerless

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Allie Crewe is fascinated by stories of transformation, especially when they are women’s stories.

“I love to photograph teenagers, trans women, women surviving illness or escaping violent marriages,” she explains. “It is not just the physical changes that draw me but how our internal, emotional lives change too.”

You Brought Your Own Light is Crewe’s debut book, of transgender portraiture that began as a Manchester exhibition sponsored by charity Sparkle. After realising the power of the featured images to give voice to subjects so often denied power, she expanded the project.

The book features 26 portraits, includingof Grace, a doctor, whose image won Crewe the BJP Portrait of Britain 2019.

Crewe’s portraiture recognises that there is nothing linear, defined or straightforward about femininity, or what it means to be a woman, in the 21st century.

“To take a person’s image is, in part, self portrait,” she says. “I am representing women, exploring their narratives and interweaving them with my own.”


“Trans.” Did I disarm you with that word? You still smile, nodding at the right moments, butI can feel your growing distance. I’ve been here before and would not ask you to travel with me. We each have our journeys and experiences that neither could fully appreciate – isn’t empathy enough to connect us? I have begun to accept my scars and subtle indentations. Patterns telling the tales of my experience. I only had to trust in the resilience of the clay from which I was formed. Step into the kiln and out into my future. Not as fine china or delicate porcelain, but a person of strength and substance, who knows who they are. Glazed and decorated by my authenticity and iridescent in the light I
once thought I did not deserve, though it had always been mine.


The misconception about trans people in general is that we are all like these super-sexual beings, who are always ready and lounging around in underwear and stiletto heels and that we have nothing better to do than that! Last year, before I was with my boyfriend, I was chatting with someone and they asked me what I was wearing and I said I was walking the dog and he said: “But you can still wear something nice.” 

I said I’m in a field with a Jack Russell, and he said: “So you’re not wearing anything silky?” That’s like non-stop. They don’t seem to think that you do any normal activities, but as soon as you get a partner that stops. They all assume that you have nothing better to do than be at the beck and call of some weirdo that wants pictures and objectifies us.


Everyone presumes that in my trans identity, I’m heterosexual and that I’m going to go full Dolly Parton with big massive tits and killer heels! You can’t ride your mountain bike or skateboard in killer heels, although don’t get me wrong there is a time and a place for big tits and killer heels.

Transitioning is a game changer. You really learn who your friends are. Now I’m out the biggest difference is with myself. Now I no longer have to keep a check on myself, although it became obvious that I had been hiding in plain sight – it was the worst kept secret ever! Since coming out, my circle of friends has got bigger, as I’ve grown in confidence and it’s more eclectic. At work I’m more relaxed, as I no longer have to worry about remnants of mascara left over from the night before. 

I’m very family oriented, with a loving partner and children who are everything to me. Generally I’m an optimistic person who lives for today to make my tomorrow bearable. 

I would describe myself as a complicated mess or organised chaos.  I no longer believe in the word happy or content. There’s too much emphasis placed on wanting to be happy and that happy is the be all and end all – it’s an unrealistic expectation.

I’m more content to accept the word joy, because joy is fleeting. What triggers my fleeting moments of joy? Accomplishing something, time spent with my family, a compliment. 


So many people think it’s a life choice. Nobody who is trans actually chose. You can’t decide. If you are trans you don’t actually get the choice. If it was a choice or, like a friend of mine says, if being trans was a job nobody would turn up to apply. That’s the biggest misconception made by so many people, especially non-LGBT. LGBT people, even cis, tend to understand it a little bit better as sexuality is not a choice so they have got that dimension of it, but people who are cis, not trans, not LGBT, that are heterosexual, still tend to have that idea in their mind – why would you not just live your life as you were born? That would be so much easier.

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