“Call me Oliver, or Olly. I always felt like a boy, I knew I was one, but I also knew I had a female body, that being a girl was what was expected of me, and at 5 years of age I had no way of articulating the tangled thicket of feelings inside. I grew up confused, with a sense of guilt and shame I couldn’t attach to anything specific. When I hit puberty, I became more and more disturbed by my body, its alienness, its needs and wants. Life felt incomprehensible, threatening. Sport and study became my ways of coping; for over a decade my body became my site of blame, by object of abuse. I’m 353 days on T. My mind and soul are the happiest they’ve been, but it is taking some long slow work to heal my body physically. “ – Olly (December 2015)
Michelle Sank was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She has been living and working in the UK since 1987. She has photographed young people in different social contexts across the UK, Europe and Africa. The portraits have been produced through a heady mix of ‘street photography’ and negotiated youth group collaborations. Her photographs have been exhibited and published in England, Europe, Australia, Mexico, South Africa and the U.S.A. She has undertaken numerous residencies for prominent galleries in the U.K. and Europe. Her work is held in both private and permanent collections such as The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas and The Woodstock Centre for Photography, New York. In 2007 she was one of the winners in The Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, London. A monograph of her work called “Becoming” was published in 2006 and another “The Water’s Edge”- about her work in Liverpool - in 2007.