In the same week that US representatives called for a queer photography exhibit at the Smithsonian be dismantled, The New York Times showcased Molly Landreth’s beautiful portraits of queer America, “Queer America,” a project that AfterEllen.com interviewed the artist about this year. The New York Times article features eighteen of Landreth’s photographs and a short conversation with the artist about the project and its significance.
Begun in 2005 as a project to record new images of queer life, the photographs, which the New York Times call “classic Americana,” are part of Landreth’s initiative to rewrite queer representation. “By inserting a queer subject,” Landreth explains, it’s rewriting the narrative. It’s acknowledging that these lives exist parallel to the straight lives that are always seen in these iconic images.”
This spring Landreth raised funds on Kickstarter.com to create a website for the project, and to produce a video of the portraits, which she collaborated on with Amelia Tovey, shining light on twenty-five additional subjects. Of her process, the Times notes:
She thinks of her photographs as collaborations with the subjects, whom she finds on Facebook or MySpace. She asks them to suggest meaningful places in their homes or neighborhoods where they can be photographed, wearing whatever outfit they like. (The sailor outfit with high heels in Seattle was one of her favorites.)
What’s important to Landreth is not only that she illustrates queer life not found in mainstream narratives, but also aspects of queer life not always present in the LGBT community. She aims to photograph a diverse cross section of queerness, but also race, class and geography. Part of this mission for her includes photographing gay couples, to show the stability and love that is not always readily portrayed in mainstream media.
“There’s a lot of strength showing marginalized communities being really strong and tender with each other,” Landreth notes. “Instead of hypersexualized images, I like the images to be about strength and honesty — and taking out the bashfulness and shame.”
Timescast produced a short video interviewing Landreth, and shows her talking about several of her subjects and the portraits they chose. The stories behind the portraits — how she caught one couples’ loving glance on film, or why one subject chose a shirt riddled with fake bullet holes — are as engaging as the photographs themselves. “I want an archive of queer life in America to exist,” she says.
An interactive website for Landreth’s project is slated to launch in spring of 2011.