As we enter Pride Month, it is important to reflect on the positive changes and small steps we have taken to achieve equality by recognizing the achievements and influential contributions of those who identify under the umbrella queer, as well as allies. Pride started as a protest, first and foremost, and we must not forget that.
Around the world, there is still a lot of work to be done and progress to be made in preaching equal rights and achieving equality in areas such as legalizing all marriages, supporting trans rights and preaching fair treatment for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.
• Learn more: 10 queer photographers to follow on Instagram (opens in a new tab)
Those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community don’t tend to spend as much time in front of screens or cover stories in the media as often as they should. Representation matters, including in the context of ethnicity, and seeing gay or look-alike lives portrayed in the media can have a huge impact on minority groups and inspire young children.
Legendary LGBTQIA+ photographers such as Catherine Opie, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin and Sunil Gupta have paved the way for historical representation and documentation for decades, providing a solid and substantial image base on which the new generation of queer photographers can rely.
Pride is for many a reminder of the struggle for acceptance that has continued since the gay rights movements of the 1960s. It commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and has since become an international celebration of diversity and individual freedom. Many queer and LGBTQIA+ artists, content creators, and photographers are trying to reclaim the digital space and move away from heteronormative media with a bias toward “normality.”
As we wave our rainbow flags and get a little tipsy to celebrate this month, let’s not forget the importance of Pride and what it truly stands for. Here is a list of photographers who are making/have made a huge difference in queer representation and demonstrating what it looks like to be LGBTQIA+ in 2022.
Visual activist and photographer, Zanele Muholi (they/them), creates complex self-portraits as a means of power and identity politics. Their self-proclaimed mission is to “rewrite a queer and trans black visual history of South Africa so that the world knows of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond”, they wrote. told Autograph in 2017.
Their work, Faces and Phasesin which they portray black lesbian and transgender people document the existence of trans and queer individuals of color as a means of protest by being shamelessly themselves, with a desire to offset the stigma and negativity attached to queer identity in African society.
Hobbes Ginsberg describes their relationship to gender identity as follows: “I am queer, but not trans. My pronouns are they and she” (as they spoke with Feature shoot (opens in a new tab) in 2015). Their work is centered on self-portraits, but they are beginning to expand into the realms of the moving image. Their use of color theory is extremely aesthetically pleasing and ties in perfectly with Ginsberg’s femininity with connotations of delicacy and lightness.
Asa Johannesson’s work on The Queering of Photography explores the notion of gender as non-conforming and presents a critique of the binary-rooted systems of thought that exist in the mainstream discourse of photography.
Joebert Tupas is a queer Filipino fashion photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. His photographic work focuses on highlighting both the beauty and power of homosexuality, inspired by his own journey as a queer man from a small province in the Philippines, later earning a master’s degree in photography. from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her interests lie in deconstructing societal and gender norms, telling queer stories, and all things weird!
Greg Bailey is a British photographer based in Brighton, specializing in drag portraiture, and is the creator and author of Okay my Dear ? The contemporary drag scene, a zine produced by Bailey in 2015 to document drag in a non-camping way. He said he said “Drag isn’t just fabulous; it’s a political statement, and it makes you question your understanding of sexuality and gender”.
The zine includes stylized portraits of famous queens featured in the hit TV series RuPaul’s Drag Race as well as candid behind-the-scenes moments that showcase new and emerging drag talent, later adapting the zine into a podcast with multiple episodes and special guests.
Mengwen Cao is a Chinese-born queer photographer, educator and artist based in New York City. Their work uses care and tenderness to explore the elements and spaces between race, gender and cultural identity. They are board members of Authority Collectivea womxn, non-binary, gender-broad group of people of color
who all work in the photography, film and creative industries and take action against the systemic and individual abuses that occur in the world of lens-based editorial, documentary and commercial visual work.
Mengwen champions diverse narratives and perspectives in the media industry through her photography, and has curated numerous artist talks, panels, guest lectures, and exhibitions around the themes of freedom to love and hidden narratives.
Founder and editor of BRICKS magazine, an independent gay-run publication, Tori West is not only an exceptional journalist and multidisciplinary creator, but also an educator. BRICKS magazine has its own London photo studio, based in Brixton.
Working with queer photographers, BRICKS magazine and its team have, in addition to its print and publishing magazine, created a alternative education platform to which readers can subscribe in exchange for exclusive content from industry experts who advise on how to navigate the creative industry.
BRICKS has also created an “opportunity board” which is published every Wednesday for subscribers listing available grants, jobs and freelance roles. Tori has a dedicated following on instagram and TikTok, and also hosts the BRICKS Learner podcast which features special guests and industry experts to address an urgent need for more accessible alternative education methods for young people.
Conceptual photographer born in Athens, Greece, Kostis Fokas grew up in a very religious environment and his work focuses on exploring the intricacies of the human body as a site of social and political inquiry. Kostis draws from discourse surrounding the construction of self, body, queer and posthumanist theories, and the performative structures of her models and photographs examine the relationship between identity and physicality.
Russian artist and photographer Emmie America currently resides in New York and explores narratives in her photography around themes of vulnerability in adulthood, lack of a sense of belonging, insider’s perspective and from the outside, LGBTQIA+ communities and experiences and party culture as the ultimate remedy.
Emmie has photographed extensively for Vogue Russia and is a fixture in the fashion and fine art photography scene. Her work as an activist led to her being detained and charged with a misdemeanor at one point when she and 25 others dressed in police uniforms and circled the word “Freedom” which had been written in the snow. Emmie is also a part-time teacher at the Rodchenko Art School in Moscow.
Photographer and human rights activist Robin Hammond has dedicated his long career to amplifying the narratives of marginalized groups, through long-term visual storytelling projects.
Robin is also the founder of Witness Change, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting human rights. He has received numerous awards, including two World Press Photo Awards, the W. Eugene Smith Award for Humanist Photography and six Amnesty International Awards for Human Rights Journalism.
Lia Clay Miller
Lia is a trans fashion and portrait photographer originally from North Carolina, now based in Brooklyn, New York. She has photographed for Vogue, Elle, Gayletter, iD, and The New York Times, among others, and has established herself as one of America’s leading trans photographers. She establishes a deep connection with her subjects, even when photographing well-known celebrities.
An Iranian-American photographer, Melodyit is the work focuses on ideas surrounding gender identity, sexuality, and the things the body cannot say about gender. His cohesive portrayal and contemporary art allows his subjects to simply exist and breathe without any glamorization. Her subjects are models of all shapes, sizes, colors, races and gender identities.
Queer Photography Photo Books
• New queer photography: focusing on the margins by Benjamin Wolbergs. Available from Amazon (opens in a new tab).
• To love: a photographic history of men in love from the 1850s to the 1950s by authors Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell. Available from Amazon (opens in a new tab).
• Eye to Eye: Portraits of lesbians by Joan E. Biren (JEB). Available from Amazon (opens in a new tab).
• Learn more:
The best books on portrait photography (opens in a new tab)
Best Camera for Portraits (opens in a new tab)
The best lens for portraits (opens in a new tab)
This is not an opinion piece, it’s a fact – gender and photography edition (opens in a new tab)
Don’t You Want Me – a photo series exploring the relationship between gay owners and rescue dogs (opens in a new tab)
Legends of Drag photo exhibit takes this glamorous art form to the mainstream (opens in a new tab)