Dominant representations of gay

This post is different from the others focussed on queer photography as it’s about dominant (ie heterosexual) representation’s of gay. Not gay people and not gay icons mind: just gay.

The first search turned up stereotypes (icons?) and words.


I then looked at how mainstream media portrays gay events such as Gay pride. That moved the imagery into symbols, colour motifs and images of scantily clad young men.


Then searching for Gay under the news heading the politics of being gay come through but the imagery is pretty generic.


Comparing this dominant imagery then where symbols, motifs and stereotypes play a major role  with say Joan E Brien’s (JEB) Lesbian images 1850 to the present (1985) shown in The Dyke Show offer a wholly different type of visual representation with a new visual history where lesbians are at the centre.

Brien seems to have selected two types of photo

  1. Photos that challenged the heterosexual norm and narrow expectations of women
  2. Lesbian semiotics – ie the visual elements that characterise a lesbian photo ie direct look, clothes, postures

So the photos may not have been intentionally queer but can be positioned as such

As I read Hackett’s description of JEB’s work I could help but think of Jo Spence’s work and especially her Phototherapy images here. Both sets of images challenge conventional norms.

However as many of the articles point out such evocation is more about the positioning and context of the image than the image itself and so can be hard to find unless one is looking for those contexts. This resonates strongly with me as I don’t think many of my photos work as discourse until they are placed in contexts against other images.

So it seems as if dominant imagery of hidden or not necessary obvious identities rely on symbols, motifs, subcultural dress codes or forms of representation to evoke meaning and where the former do so explicitly and so everyone can  see the obvious meaning the latter rely on lots of subcultural knowledge to get the hidden meaning.


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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