Snap, Crackle, and Shot: Inspirations Behind Queer Photography

By Raies

Photography is amazing. I think we can all agree on that because I am yet to meet anyone who dislikes it. These careful compositions of pretty pixels that make up photographs inspire and connect us. It’s this magical combination that is equal parts art and science that has played a revolutionary role in human history. And for me personally, it has been a transformative experience if nothing else.

 Growing up in the small South American/Caribbean country of Suriname where the salty ocean water of the Atlantic collides with the land of many rivers, I found truth and freedom expressed through light and glass. And now that I’ve been given this once in a lifetime opportunity to come to China and take a closer look at this magnificent medium while communing with so many new people and friends, I want to share some of what I’ve learned throughout my life and maybe even inspire others to pick up a camera and make some magic through what I like to call Queer photography

“I am proud, that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt.” – Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

 Transformative. That’s one word I often use when talking about how photography has impacted me. I was never really someone to fit in while growing up. Ever since early childhood, I’ve been one to be that bit different from my brother and cousins. I remember quite vividly being more in touch with things other boys my age would shun or passionately disassociate with like perfume, or art. 

I would rather have played “dollhouse” or pretend to be a chef than play soccer. I preferred the company of the girls in the family as it felt a bit more “safer” to me. But choosing to do so meant dealing with the consequences. My mind was inadvertently turned into a psychological battleground. As a result of years of bullying from certain family members, friends, and classmates., a split occurred. Uncertainty. Hopelessness. Darkness. Even death. 

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These are the words I use to describe my world during my teenage years. And it was during this time of intense vulnerability that I grew close to some of the people who hurt me the most. I was forced to do things I really did not want to do. I remember feeling violated to my core, so much so that everything turned black and dark. Time became distorted in my mind as it turned into a vacuum. No light. No air. No life. I was broken and I didn’t know how to deal with it. 

After months of wandering in the darkness with no North Star to guide me homeward, I attempted suicide. This is my prologue, this is my past. And while it has all passed, it lives one. It pushes and steers, and while I might not always like where it leads me; it led me to photography. 

“Nature made a mistake, which I have corrected.” – Christine Jorgensen

Summer. Hundred of kilometers down south in the forest was where I felt something again. I was on vacation with my parents at one of the many eco-resorts in the rainforest and was sitting on some moss-covered rocks next to the raging rapids of the Suriname River, when, all of a sudden, a bright blue dragonfly landed next to me. I was at the right place and the right time as I grabbed my mother’s pocket camera and took a picture that transformed my outlook. 

Upon the release of the shutter button, I was transported to an alien world so verdant and strange. For a split second, I was released from my anger and angst as I was completely absorbed into something that didn’t remind me of my painful past and instead offered me something else on which to focus. 

I’ve come to understand photography on a personal and intimate level, and now I, without a doubt, believe that photography can heal. It healed me by filling in the gaps of darkness left behind from years of mental abuse with shards of beautiful light. And now that I’ve realized this, I’d like to tell others about my experience in the hopes that others might find this useful. 

“There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.” – Tammy Baldwin

When I look to my future as a visual storyteller-artist, I tend to look to my past. Queer photography is something that I’ve been doing since I first picked up a camera but it isn’t until now that I am able to articulate it in a way that feels accurately authentic. The idea for Queer photography was conceived not too long ago here in Beijing after I attended a talk about Queer ecology. 

Queer ecology. Queer people. Queer photography. When I talk about Queer photography I employ an open-ended approach to the medium; I suppose even an amateurish approach because it is because of amateurs like me that we can push the boundaries of the art forward by constantly questioning the status quo and remaining curious as we try to take new paths of self-expression.

For me, queer photography also means the bending and breaking of rules once firmly held in a bid to birth an authentic vision of one’s life. 

Photos: Unsplash

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