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What It Means to Be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility

June 18 – August 24, 2014
Main Gallery, Ryerson Image Centre
Guest Curator: Sophie Hackett

“I had never seen a picture of two women kissing, and I wanted to see it. I borrowed a camera . . .” – JEB (Joan E. Biren)

The ideas of visibility and greater acceptance have long been tied together for those in queer communities. So much so that it is plausible to suggest that one of the projects developing alongside the LGBT rights movement since the 1960s, though unofficial and organic, has been to produce a visual record. Greater visibility has often meant greater representation in mass media outlets and this visibility has undeniably increased over the last four decades — so too have LGBT rights.

Photographs have, of course, played a key role in this. But what has this photographic visibility consisted of? To celebrate World Pride 2014 Toronto, this exhibition takes a closer look at this rich photographic record, and the ways photographs have served to bring to light a sense of collective characteristics, experiences and ambitions for queer communities.

Featuring a broad range of materials from the Black Star Collection at Ryerson University, the Canadian Lesbian + Gay Archives (Toronto), and other prominent collections in the United States and Europe, this range of photographs argues for the continued validity — necessity, even — of making queer people visible, collectively and individually.




Event(s):

Opening Reception

Wednesday, June 18
5:30 – 8:00 PM

Exhibition Tour
Sophie Hackett
Wednesday, June 25
6:00 PM

Exhibition Tour
Sophie Hackett
Wednesday, July 30
6:00 PM

A primary exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Presented by TD Bank Group. Organized by the Ryerson Image Centre in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario and WorldPride 2014 Toronto

A woman with short hair wearing a shirt that says "gay revolution". Another woman sits behind her
Fig. 1

Michael Abramson, Gay Liberation March, New York City, USA, June 25, 1971, gelatin silver print. BS.2005.246385 / 151-388. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection at Ryerson University

A man wearing a white shirt that says "gay revolution" has his arm around another man in  white mesh shirt
Fig. 2

Michael Abramson, Gay Liberation March, New York City, USA, June 25, 1971, gelatin silver print. BS.2005.246343 / 151-346. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection at Ryerson University 

3 gay couples kissing in the street
Fig. 3

Gerald Hannon, Kiss-in at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, Toronto, 1976, gelatin silver print. Collection of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Toronto. 1986-032/08P(35)

A group of men wearing dresses and jewelry play Scrabble
Fig. 4

Casa Susanna, c 1960. From Casa Susanna edited by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, published by powerHouse Books.

A rainy-day protest on Parliament Hill. Banners read "Canada true north strong & gay" and "Toronto gay action"
Fig. 5

Jearld Moldenhauer, Demonstration on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, August 28, 1971, gelatin silver print. Collection of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Toronto. 1982-001/02P(01).

A group of police cars on fire, broken glass on the ground
Fig. 6

Eric Stein, Gay Revolt – San Francisco, July 1979, gelatin silver print. BS.2005.246319 / 151-322. Reproduction from the Black Star Collection.

Curator Bio

Sophie Hackett
Guest Curator

Sophie Hackett is the Curator, Photography, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and adjunct faculty in Ryerson University’s master’s program in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management. She continues to write for art magazines, international journals and artist monographs, including “Queer Looking: Joan E. Biren’s Slide Shows” in Aperture (spring 2015) and “Encounters in the Museum: The Experience of Photographic Objects” in the edited volume The “Public” Life of Photographs (Ryerson Image Centre and MIT Press, 2016).

Exhibition Catalogue

Fig. 1

Front cover

What It Means To Be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility / Zanele Muholi: Faces and Phases

Curators: Sophie Hackett and Gaelle Morel
Research Assistant: Sol Legault

Within LGBTQ communities, the camera has historically served several critical functions. Journalists, artists, amateurs, and activists have used photography to build and sustain social bonds by sharing private experience, recording and preserving history, and celebrating sexuality and gender identities constrained by dominant social mores and legal prohibition - in other words, revealing what might otherwise be hidden from sight. By contrast, the medium has been used critically, and with aggression, as an instrument of identification and derogation by heteronormative media outlets and forces of state power. This publication, issued alongside the Ryerson Image Centre's Summer 2014 exhibition season on the occasion of WorldPride 2014 Toronto, explores significant aspects of photography's function within and without queer culture over the last seventy-five years.

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Installation Shots

3 clusters of framed photographs and a screen in the main gallery
Fig. 1

What It Means To Be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility (installation view), 2014 © Eugen Sakhnenko, Ryerson Image Centre

A large print of three women posing, beside a display case in the main gallery
Fig. 2

What It Means To Be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility (installation view), 2014 © Eugen Sakhnenko, Ryerson Image Centre

24 framed polaroids of beach scenes
Fig. 3

What It Means To Be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility (installation view), 2014 © Eugen Sakhnenko, Ryerson Image Centre

Sponsors

A primary exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Presented by TD Bank Group. Organized by the Ryerson Image Centre in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario and WorldPride 2014 Toronto