Making Collaborative Self-Portraits

Raymond, Ciaran and Chris making Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Ciaran, Natalie and Sarah creating a backdrop from Conversation Maps for Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Sarah, Ciaran and Chris creating a backdrop from Conversation Maps for Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Setting up studio for Collaborative Self-Portraits with Conversation Maps.

 

Raymond and Ciaran making Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Raymond and Paul making Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Raymond and Sarah making Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Raymond setting up for Collaborative Self-Portraits.

 

Setting up for Collaborative Self-Portraits.

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Putting a face to the community

Today was a tricky day as due to a last minute change of circumstances, I had to look after my 8 year old brother whilst participating in the project. Considering this slight distraction, we managed to get quite a lot done over this weekend. We carried on mapping our conversations on LGBTQ+ themes, and this really helped to visualise the issues that we would like to focus on in our final exhibition. We also created more Collaborative Portraits, which my brother found hilarious. I think these pictures help to humanise us as LGBTQ+ people (i.e. putting a face to the community). And I also really enjoyed the process of taking the pictures and playing with the professional camera. We decided to use the conversation maps as the background to these images as a reference to all of the work we have achieved over the past few weekends. Most of the group also have their staged photograph ideas on paper now. To be honest, I still don’t have a solid idea of what I will do for the photographs as most of the ideas that I feel passionate about have already been used by other members of the group. I hope to come across another news story in the next month or so before the time comes to stage the photographs. We also set out a plan for after the workshops which involves a lot of internet-based work and communication between the group members. I am very excited about the online-presence of the project as it makes the project feel like it will have a long-lasting outcome beyond the exhibition in Belfast Exposed.

– Natalie

Equal in every way?

I think the name ‘Let Us Eat Cake’ might make people think we are targeting people that may be against gay views. This shouldn’t be the case though, everyone has their own points of view on this subject.

I also think, with gay men, there should be no doubt that they should be allowed to either adopt children or even have a surrogate in the future. No matter who the couple are. Gay / Bi-sexual / Lesbian / Trans… They shouldn’t be discriminated against when in a same sex relationship and want to have children together.

Being very family-oriented and a family man, I would love someday to meet the man who will love me and also one day want to settle and have children with myself.

No-one should have to be annoyed or discriminate against same-sex couples having children together. There are so many A-list celebrities that are married and have children together.

All people in today’s society and communities should be equal in every way.

If all people were born gay, would it be such a big thing if people had to come out as ‘straight’? Why should be frowned upon if / when people come out as LGBTQ+?

– Ciaran

In this day and age

Themes discussed – rights, offensiveness, reach of the project, target audience

Today we discussed the idea of what the title means and how it could be perceived by the public. Some people thought that due to the recent news and appeal about Asher’s Bakery that some may be put off from the exhibition. This got the group chatting about the over-arching meaning of the title and how even though some may be offended, or believe that we are ‘pushing’ a gay / LGBTQ+ agenda, it’s great that it catches attention and will hopefully provide us with the opportunity to engage and challenge perceptions. We discussed how there is a perception in society that young LGBTQ+ people have an easy time and live in a more accepting society. However, this is not always the case and there has been a recent shift in society towards the ‘right’. It is important that we take a stand and have our voices heard, challenge views openly, debate important human rights issues and inequality, and work towards ending the view that we have to ‘seek permission’ for the things most people take for granted. It was noted that even to this day many LGBTQ+ people still feel ‘lesser’, and how this is something both politics and religion have played a hand in.

Ciaran chatted about his experiences and what he wants for the future, to be a dad. He was surprised that people have asked him / told him that he can’t have children. This is something I want also and made me think if I had to choose either the ability to married or to have children which would I choose… Then I thought how ridiculous is my way of thinking, these are two things that everyone should have access to!

The morning discussion has enthused my passion for doing something which, could at least in some way, add a brick to the pavement for the way forward for LGBTQ+ people. Even if our project just gets people thinking or discussing some of the issues, and more positively the good things / role models LGBTQ+ people are going then it is well worth my whilst. I do as always, and am increasingly conscious of, think that I can’t let myself get caught up in a runaway tangent of anger when I think how annoying it is, in this day and age, that there is still a need for our voices to be heard and to increase our visibility.

– Chris

Why Let Us Eat Cake?

This morning we have had an important conversation about the name of our project, but it only stemmed from our thoughts about the title and from there opened up into a discussion about our human rights as LGBTQ+ people, the power dynamic that withholds them from us and how to go about dismantling it.

There were disagreements within even our small group about how to approach this.

The argument was made that in order to bring those who are against us around to bring with us we must be careful not to offend or drive them away from our cause, and that we should be, instead, concentrating on ‘luring’ them in.

This approach does not sit well with me personally. I can see where it’s coming from, and admittedly, I perhaps embody this on a day to day basis – for various reasons – e.g., cheating myself, censoring myself, being careful to ensure that I am coming across as approachable and likeable rather than portraying the ‘hysterical woman’ or ‘radical feminist’ approach. I do these things, for the most part, to keep myself safe. However, I feel strongly that this project is bigger that each of us as individuals. I feel a duty and a responsibility not to shy away from inequality when portraying LBGTQ+ people in the North of Ireland, and I feel that worrying about alienating bigots should not be a concern for us – we should not be tiptoeing around them.

Comparisons were made to racial inequality and how it would be unthinkable to even entertain the idea of pandering to neo-Nazis if a similar project was being made in order to highlight inequalities between white people and people of colour. I think it is all too easy for people who face discrimination and prejudice in the North of Ireland to simply accept it rather than challenge it – and the reasons for this are historically complex. We have learnt to normalise unacceptable behaviour towards us, on various levels, including personal and political, and we have become desensitised to it.

– Rachael

Normal lives

This weekend we focused on potential themes for the project and from this came up with a name. I created a YouTube playlist which we spent about an hour watching. We took down notes on the themes that emerged from the playlist and, aside from marriage equality, one of the main stories we focused on was the Asher’s Bakery being in the news for refusing to bake a cake that supported same sex marriage. From this, we came up with the title ‘Let Us Eat Cake’ for the project. This title has a historical context of rebellion and is also intertextually related to the Asher’s Bakery story. I was initially concerned about focusing the entire project on this single, divisive issue. I am still slightly uncomfortable with this name on a personal level. Both my family, my partner and I believe the Asher’s Bakery incident should not be seen to be a defining factor of the community through this photography exhibition. There are many other important issues and events that have happened in Northern Ireland in regards to LGBT equality, such as the DUP using the petition of concern against Gay Marriage. However, after much debate with the rest of the participants, I do not believe this is an issue that I can personally resolve. We also looked at each other’s photographs from the last month during this session. I had been to New York over Easter so most of my photographs were cityscape related, a few were to do with NYC AIDS walk advertisements and public statements of equality, such as the NIKE store’s inclusion of the sports-wear hijab and pro-equality t-shirts, which I loved. I found it interesting that most of the group’s photographs were based around rural landscapes or urban graffiti artwork. I wonder does this suggest that Northern Irish LGBT people are very influenced by their public setting? I also really enjoyed that most of us depicted the people we care about in our photographs. This reinforces my thoughts in my first post, that LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland live a very normal lives, except for the equality issues we face and I believe this should be truthfully depicted in our work together.

– Natalie