As the first generation raised on the Internet, schooled by social media, and fluent in digital technology comes of age, they possess an innate understanding of how images can be used to explore and express the intricate construction of identity and selfhood. With the democratization of photography, people from around the globe are now able to author and distribute their own visual language to tell stories on their own terms, helping to usher in a new age of liberation movements.
For LGBTQ photographers working at a time when laws against homosexuality and trans rights are finally being repealed in many countries around the globe, we are entering a renaissance comparable to the Stonewall era half a century ago. By smashing the binary precepts that have plagued Western thinking for thousands of years, a new generation of queer image-makers are introducing new ways to consider the complex expression of sexuality and gender in their works.
With the recent publication of New Queer Photography: Focus on the Margins (Gingko Press), editor Benjamin Wolbergs brings together 52 international contemporary artists who use photography as a tool of activism and self-actualization. Featuring works by Dustin Thierry, Pauliana Valente Pimentel, Laurence Rasti, and Lissa Rivera, among others, the book offers a panoply of perspectives at the edges of a new frontier, pushing the boundaries of the word “queer.”
The Kids Are Alright
Youth is a time of discovery of the world and of self, a realm filled with hopes and dreams. Photography, and its infinite varieties, is a thrill all its own, not unlike the first flowerings of lust. In New Queer Photography, the artists employ a wide array of genres to create new landscapes of desire: for love, sex, beauty, connection, community, and strength. There is an intimacy that comes from a yearning for knowledge of self, a journey these artists embarked upon the moment they asserted their truths.
The spirit of inclusivity, acceptance, and self-love begins with Wolbergs’s decision to bring artists working outside of the mainstream into view. In the book’s introduction, he writes, “Living on the margins—under different circumstances — may often create the very conditions that enable people to throw off the shackles of social norms and spread their wings in total freedom, exploring their gender identity in all its fluidity and playing with it in a natural and uninhibited way.”
We see this beautifully portrayed in Julia Gunther’s series, “Rainbow Girls,” which documents the Miss Lesbian Beauty Pageant in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, South Africa. By subverting the heteronormative framework of the beauty pageant, these Black women reclaim the sanctity of their lives from a world that treats them as disposable.
“All of the women in my pictures have suffered in some way,“ Gunther reveals. “They’ve been ostracized by society, are desperately poor, or have experienced terrible injustice. But they are also all still proud. Proud of who they are, of their lives and the love they represent.”
By Miss Rosen
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer focusing on art, photography, and culture. Her work has been published in books, magazines, and websites including Time, Vogue, Artsy, Aperture, Dazed, and Vice, among others.
New Queer Photography: Focus on the Margins
Edited by Benjamin Wolbergs, published by Gingko Press