Julia Gunther’s project documents participants in the Miss Calendar Girl Beauty Pageant, which takes place in South Africa. The event was founded in 2015 by Chedino, a trans woman whom Gunther has been photographing since 2012. “My work focuses on the role of gender in society, specifically the representation deficit of marginalised communities in Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Gunther. “I collaborate with people in my pictures to ensure that the images I take portray their truth.
“Chedino wanted to create an event that trans girls can feel more comfortable entering,” she continues. “Similar to the balls featured in Paris is Burning, pageants like Miss Calendar Girl provide normally fringe members of South African society with a safe environment, a support network and, above all, a sense of community.
“Inspired by the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I took some of the pageant participants for a photoshoot into a salt pan outside of Cape Town. All outfits and makeup were designed and applied by the calendar girls themselves, and would be worn during the Miss Calendar Girl Beauty Pageant a week later.”