#11

This new issue of photography+ takes a closer look at the practice of three women artists - Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Lucia Pizzani, Xaviera Simmons - all of whom have been working towards exhibitions or making new bodies of work during lockdown. We hear from Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, describing in her own words the motivations and connections which weave through her practice. Lucia Pizzani talks us through her new body of work Acorazadas, and we dive deeper into the upcoming exhibition of Xaviera Simmons, as part of the Liverpool Biennial. We reflect on community with curator Ricardo Reverón and artist Eva Louisa Jonas who look back on their recent experience working together to create safe and creative spaces for LGBTQ+ communities. We are also very happy to welcome Tshepiso Mabula, our writer in residence for 2021. Based in Johannesburg her first text introduces her environmental and photographic influences growing up in South Africa.

Text by Ricardo Reverón Blanco, Photoworks.

Ricardo Reverón Blanco (Learning & Engagement Coordinator, Photoworks) and Eva Louisa Jonas (artist) reflect on working together to create safe and creative spaces for LGBTQ+ communities.

As queer folk, we can initially struggle to find a social footing in our immediate environment. Photoworks is aware of this and through its LGBTQ+ learning programme, aims to provide a safe space for learning, creating, sharing and socialising. In my role at Photoworks, as a Learning & Engagement Coordinator, I have had the pleasure to develop two LGBTQ+ focused projects alongside Eva Louisa Jonas, an artist that through her practice, conscientiously captures themes of belonging, being and bystanding.

Being two creatives, we initially bounced off each other’s ideas which led to many conversations about queer aesthetics, while drawing from the gestural subtleties, physicalities, layers and techniques explored in the work of Paul Mgapi Sepuya, Guanyu Xu (featured in Photoworks Festival 2020), Sara Davidmann, and more recently Pacifico Silano.

Eva’s personal practice subtly evokes themes that are often overlooked when thinking about identity politics, sexuality and the self. Through subtle gestures, intuitive cropping and delicate textural elements, her work explores how one belongs in the world – an apt conceptual framework for young queer people who might be in the process of reflecting on their own identity. Eva’s latest book Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land does exactly that and becomes the source of a lot of inspiration for the online delivery of these projects.

Although this poem was not written about LGBTQ+ identity/acceptance struggles within a family setting or my own lived experience, it became the catalyst for our conversations and the backbone to our approach for the workshops we co-delivered at Photoworks over the past year:

I’ve ended up with my head

laid on top of my right knee

like a cut off tree trunk

(un)familiarised, misplaced, watchful

of an omnipresent familiar silence

 

this nuclear family has become

a perpendicular one against three

so all I can do is mirror

this disjointed formation

by placing my head on top of my knee.

 

what do you do when the nuclear family

implodes and you’re stuck within

its umbilical cords?

do you become the collateral damage

or do you sever the family tree

and reveal the birthmarks of your detached bond?

I don’t know

perhaps these questions aren’t static

today they feel like a no

maybe tomorrow they will be yeses

© ‘Rings and Impressions’ from Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land, Published October 2020

Last year, Eva and I co-facilitated Archiving Your Life – a LGBTQ+ youth-led programme dedicated to preserving queer archives and enabling the queer community to take control over the stories and narratives that are told about their lives.

Managed by Photoworks and Queer Heritage South, the project created the youth collective Queer History Now to explore ways of using photography to engage with the Tommy & Betty archive (partly on show ar Queer the Pier, Brighton Museum & Art Galleries) across a series of creative Zoom workshops.

The collection documents the lives of two women who’s everyday livelihood served as a catalyst for discussion(s). These included conversations about revisioning history through a queer/ordinary/ethical lens and materialised into a Manifesto and digital exhibition as part of Photoworks Festival 2020.

In partnership with LGBTQ+ youth service Allsorts Youth Project and funded by Brighton & Hove City Council, Photography Club takes a different approach given the participants’ younger age. Many young people are faced with loaded questions around ‘coming out’, expectations, language and self-identification; our workshops avoid that. These sessions aren’t about having an epiphany about knowing who you are and how one should be in the world. Being ‘unsure’ about one’s own identity is ok and these workshops are an open and safe creative environment to explore these issues gently and through photography.

‘Not knowing is most intimate.'[1]

There is a lot of intrinsic pressure about language and self-identifying and photography becomes a channel that gently brings people together to discuss these issues. Photography Club then becomes a cathartic experience to many young people we work with, as it let’s them not only learn technical elements, but learn how to visualise and tell their stories through images when language fails to do so appropriately for them. Eva has created a safe space for young people who might struggle to find LGBTQ+ friendly spaces in their schools or local community, enabling them to get inspired and come together (for now) digitally.

Photography, Eva’s practice and our people centred approach becomes a mindful medium to visualise and explore LGBTQ+ issues with a less overt untangling about one’s well being and identity. Through belonging, being and bystanding we are better placed to truly capture each individual’s needs and experiences, and in doing so, use the camera (or Zoom lens) as a way to feel our way through our identity(ies).

Photography Club continues to develop every Wednesday evening on Zoom and invites 13-18 year old, LGBTQ+ or Unsure young people living in Brighton & Hove. You can sign up here.

Ricardo Reverón Blanco is a curator, writer and arts workshop facilitator based in West Sussex.

Eva Louisa Jonas is a visual artist, photography facilitator and co-founder of UnderExposed based in Brighton, UK.

[1] (1) Eva Louisa Jonas, Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land, Paris: September Books, 2020, p65.

Photography+ is supported by MPB.

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