NO MORE, NO LESS
All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more - and no less - heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organisers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century. We are ordinary people, living our lives, and trying as civil-rights activist Dorothy Cotton said, to 'fix what ain't right' in our society.
- Senator Tammy Baldwin.
Representing the multitude of experiences that make up the Queer community is a pretty impossible thing to do from the perspective of one person. Over the last couple of years I’ve begun experimenting with representing my experience of growing up and experiencing life as a gay man. Many of my explorations have been very personal and introverted, but recently I’ve begun representing a greater range of experiences form among the community on a more explicitly political and social level. l want to talk here about my experiences attempting to represent what it’s like personally to grow up as a gay man and more generally socially what it is like to be Queer or Trans.
My interest stems from wanting to understand my own experience first and foremost. I have found that starting with my own experience as a base and a starting point in my research, I can slowly expand my thinking. This helps me ground the project in something real and understandable. For just over a year now, I have been making work that is an attempt to understand and translate my real life experiences into art. Most of what that has involved has been through self-portraiture, which up until recently has been the focus of my work. I am exploring specifically socio-political work about Trans rights in Ireland.
Originally, I began in a way that I felt represented the Queer community and specifically how I felt we interacted with it. Through the gradual evolution of that project I began shooting self-portraiture. I wanted to use my experience to create something that was relatable and also a pathos to those outside of the LGBTQIA community. I looked into a lot of photographers that sought the same intimate representation that I did, Philip Lorca di Corica, Nan Goldin and Michelle Sank were all important inspirations to my work and in how I approach my idea of intimacy in my self-portraiture.
Two of my last projects tackled the idea of LGBTQIA rights in Ireland. My work on Trans Rights and on the virtues within the Gender Recognition Act, (2015), was all about celebrating the fact that Trans people in Ireland who identify as a transgender man or woman, can self-identify their gender themselves and have that fully recognised by the State. I have represented the Trans people I have used as models in my photographs as strong and self-assured. This self-assurance is something I believe has been directly affected by Gender Recognition Act for doing. I am infinitely grateful that this has been the outcome. In my more personal work, I have explored the effect of off-the-cuff remarks and causal language that negatively affected me in my youth growing up queer in rural Ireland. I wrote words that would have been in the peripheral of my youth on my body and in a way, for myself, I reclaimed them. I’m not negating the effect they had on me but rather accepting that they’re part of me, they are like scars, just part of my skin now.
Representing other people’s experience of LGBTQIA in comparison to mine is interesting. I have to recognise my position of perceived privilege as a Cisgender white gay male. I was very aware throughout my work that I couldn’t appropriate other peoples' experiences. In my own experience, I could understand and represent context and bias as I liked, because it is my own, but in my privilege I have no idea what it is like to be anything other than what I am. So in my work I tried not to mis-represent unique experiences that aren’t mine. In my self-portraiture I photographed the experience of growing up gay surrounded by adversity and in others I explored the negative effect gay dating apps like Grindr had on my self-worth, the issues I found in my work were my own and for me that grounded them in something real that I could understand and expand.
Photographing others in the community is different. I photographed other people for my work on Trans rights and also my work on Grindr as a homo social institution. Photographing others, whether in some kind of collaboration or as study where my authorship is total includes an ethical dimension, of course. No longer am I representing myself, I am representing a differently lived experience that means I must ethically to do right by them and my relationship to them as a person with a strong standpoint empowered by my access to and use of photography to represent.
Brady, J. (2017) No more, no less, Available at: (Accessed:___).