The issue of marriage equality for LGBTQ+ people is something that has been very prevalent in my life lately. I feel passionately that my partner and I deserve access to the same marital rights as any other couple. We are at the two year stage in our relationship and we feel like marriage is the next step for us for legal and personal reasons. We plan to have children soon and marriage would provide an extra legal protection for our family. Emotionally, we have both always wanted a traditional white wedding. We have religious families and we would like to have our relationship recognised like any other couple, free of the limitations that exist legally within a civil partnership.
In deciding to address the theme of marriage equality for my Collaborative Self-Portrait, I felt it was only right to consider having my partner in the photograph. On the day we took the pictures I had rings readily available. I thought it would be a good idea to have these in the photograph as a motif. I placed the rings just within reach to reiterate Northern Ireland’s regression in comparison to the rest of the UK on the subject of marriage equality for LGBTQ+ people.
We decided the staging of the image should be intimate but also domestic, in reference to my thoughts on the importance of showing the day-to-day, average lives of LGBTQ+ people. To create cohesiveness with the rest of the photographs in the series we used a soft lighting and I faced the camera directly. I was actually having so much fun I found it quite difficult to stop smiling when taking the photographs. However, I wanted to show that marriage equality for LGBTQ+ people is a serious issue and I didn’t want the photograph to give the impression that we are happy with the current situation in Northern Ireland.
Overall, I am very happy with how my Collaborative Self-Portrait has turned out. I think the colour scheme works really well with the lighting and the rings are a nice touch. I love the intimacy of the photograph and I believe it puts a relatable face to the issue of marriage equality for LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland.
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.
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.
At the beginning of the workshops this weekend we discussed the direction of our photography project. During this meeting, some main themes arose. These themes included the impact of politics and religion on LGBTQ+ identity in Northern Ireland, and how these subjects affect family and personal relationships. We mapped our conversations about all kinds of keywords, themes and ideas, including options for a name for our project, and potential ideas for the work we are making that will be exhibited. Although we have not yet officially named the project, we considered the idea of re-enacting news stories and important events regarding the subject of LGBTQ+ life in Northern Ireland. We also discussed whether we should give a negative, neutral or positive view of these events. I believe our depictions of LGBTQ+ life in Northern Ireland, either positive or negative, could be a very important element of the project, as this contributes towards the message we are perpetuating to the public in general through the exhibition. I personally would like the project to depict LGBTQ+ life as truthfully as possible. I have personally found that whilst I experience some prejudice, my life is fairly similar to that of a heterosexual woman and this human aspect is something I feel is not represented enough in media surrounding LGBTQ+ people.
Later in the afternoon on Sunday, we explored the Belfast Exposed archive and then went into the darkroom to experiment with making photographs. Inspired by this experimental work, we went home with the task of photographing our everyday lives, using both digital and disposable cameras, in relation to some of the themes that emerged over the weekend. The thought process of taking out the camera and setting up the shot has so far helped me to create some really interesting images. However, I have found that frequently I have forgotten to bring my camera to certain places and have ended up taking quite a few pictures on my phone!