Queer photography, queer photographer?

At last I have found a photographer who creates queer images without reference to the body.

Catherine Opie:
“the politics behind visibility and community”
“I am not a singular identity”
“my work is totally defined as queer”

I get this. Opie’s explanation of her work seemed exactly parallel to mine in regard of disability. However when I explored here work – such as here – and here a great deal of her work seemed to focus heavily on representation of the person and in that way was obviously queer. But many of her photos are landscapes and only evoke gay connotations by either contexts or viewer knowledge.

So if Opie presented her landscapes online and without any obvious reference to sexuality that connotation would easily be missed unless she was well known as a gay photographer. For example, Robert Mapplethorpe is more than a famous photographer; he is a famous gay photographer. His photos are noted for their subject matter in relation to that status. So can gay photographers create images that are not queer? I have been looking at Sunil Gupta’s images entitled Tales from a City – see here and he doesn’t necessarily appear to be making a visual statement about his sexuality in those images even though I know he is gay and speaks to that subject in lots of his work.

So clearly we have multiple identities and influences in our lives and choose what to emphasise ad artists but we cannot but see the world through our own eyes, minds and experiences. So can Gupta create images that do not reflect his being Gay or can I create non-disabled photos?

I was non-disabled until just 20 years old but since then – and it’s a very long time – the 37 years that have passed have all been experienced through paralysis with its accompanying attributes such as wheelchair use, illness and incontinence. So are all the photos I create disabled photos?

I think so. Even when I choose to address other issues – eg items in a Tesco store – I think the framing offers subtle hints into my being a wheelchair user. And so it is with Gupta and us all. That is we all reflect who we are in our images but not everyone recognises these connotations.


However, if the intention is to promote thought and reflection within the viewer about specific aspects of life such as disability, disabled people and impairment then we need to either evoke it within the image such as by inserting some visual trigger like that below or add text, or create it through contexts and associations.

Landscape Motif-19

Catherine Opie, Aperture, Spring 2015


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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