Human rights activism can take many forms. Whether it means marching in a parade or protest, passing out flyers, blogging, putting together a benefit potluck, or lobbying for political progressiveness, there are so many ways to speak up for causes one believes in. Many activists use art to raise awareness about inequality, using illustrative mediums to create LGBT visibility and address issues that affect marginalized people.
Here are three artists who are using photography to enhance the discourse surrounding gender and sexuality:
San Francisco-based photographer Sarah Deragon created “The Identity Project” as a way to visually demonstrate just how fluid gender can be. Happily, there are a lot more ways to describe one’s gender and sexuality than society would have us believe, a fact that Deragon captures in her stunning black and white portraits. Every photograph is coupled with a caption that describes how the subject defines their own gender identity, which brings great visibility to underrepresented gender markers such as “queer,” “pansexual,” “gender queer,” “femme,” “boi,” and dozens of others.
Ashley Kolodner is an artist who believes in creating works that are larger than herself, and “GAYFACE,” a project that seeks to illustrate diversity and promote LGBT visibility, is no exception. The portraits that Kolodner captures for this photography project are all at once vulnerable and empowered, and represent just how powerful art as a tool for activism can be. “I wanted to connect with my community,” says Kolodner of her inspiration for creating “GAYFACE.” “I wanted to empower us as individuals and as a whole, big queer spectrum. I wanted to show the world who we are in all our glory, and help the queer humans I document to not be so scared of life.”
Photographer Meg Allen has a knack for capturing moments of vulnerability in her remarkable portraits. Her photography project, “BUTCH,” is a stunning example of both her technical skills, as well as her ability to explore gender nuances. “BUTCH” is an environmental portraiture project and exploration of the butch aesthetic, identity and presentation of female masculinity as it stands in 2013-14,” explains Allen. One of the most compelling facets of “BUTCH” is how Allen seemingly steps right into the lives of the people she photographs; the images are set in homes, barber shops, the beach, and other spaces that are undoubtedly deeply personal to the subjects.
What do you think of these three artists and photography projects? Who are some of your favorite artist-activists?
Image 1: Sarah Deragon via “The Identity Project”
Image 2: Ashley Kolodner via “GAYFACE”
Image 3: Meg Allen, “Butch,” via Instagram